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'We want to make this a destination location': Russell Wilson, Broncos prioritize future success with contract extension

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — General Manager George Paton had dozed off.

A day earlier, the Broncos' personnel department had worked into the late hours of the night as they sorted through hundreds of players who had been waived as teams cut their rosters to 53 players.

By Wednesday night at 11:30, with the Broncos in the midst of contract negotiations with quarterback Russell Wilson, Paton had fallen asleep.

He was jolted back awake not long after by a FaceTime call from Wilson and his wife, Ciara.

"I couldn't figure out the phone so I lost them," Paton said Thursday, "and I was like, 'Are they going to ask for more money? What are they doing?'"

The Wilsons, instead, were calling to inform Paton that the extension had been finalized, and Wilson was set to be in Denver through 2028.

"It was one of the best phone calls I've ever received," Paton said. "Ciara and Russ and even [Wilson's agent] Mark [Rodgers] was on the call. Pretty cool stuff. I'll remember that — [it's] the best I've felt after a deal."

Paton wasn't the only one. The reaction to the deal — in both the Broncos' locker room and the media — was overwhelmingly positive. In many ways, the deal set the tone for the next era of Broncos football.

"I believe this deal is a win-win for everyone," Paton said. "This allows us to continue building and maintaining a championship roster."

The structure and specifics of the deal, according to both Paton and Wilson, will allow the Broncos to build a franchise that is competitive for years to come.

"To me, what it's really about is being able to win championships and be able to have enough space on the salary cap so that George gets to make his magic and we get guys like Randy Gregory when he comes on the team or other great players," Wilson said. "I think that we want to make this a destination location. I think it's one of those things where we have an amazing tradition of an amazing football team. We've got a lot of amazing new faces. … I think what's important, too, is you surround yourself with amazing players. For me, I love these guys. We've been having a blast. It's been an amazing joy, and so, for me, it wasn't really about how much, necessarily. It was about how many — how many Super Bowls are we going to win? And that's really the focus."

Wilson said he had conversations with both Paton and Rodgers about ensuring that he wanted the Broncos to be able to retain their own talent and sign free agents in the future.

"We talked about how we want to build a championship team, win Super Bowls and to sign guys down the road," Wilson said. "Obviously, we got some amazing starts such as Pat Surtain [II] and so many other great players, the Jerry Jeudys of the world and Javonte Williams. I love my guy Melvin Gordon [III]. There are so many other amazing talents and guys on the defensive side. … This team is really special."

The Broncos' talent — along with the leadership of the franchise's ownership group, president, general manager and coach — convinced Wilson that he wanted to be in Denver long-term.

So while Wilson's contract extension was a major step, it was also just the beginning of an era that Wilson hopes lasts the rest of his career.

"I truly believe we're building something special here," Paton said. "This is only the beginning."

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