DENVER -- Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Al Wilson agreed
Tuesday to a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Denver
The deal also includes a signing bonus in excess of $10 million.
By agreeing to terms, Wilson avoided the Broncos' franchise
designation, which would have paid him $5.834 million on a one-year
contract, based on the averages of the top-10 salaries at his
position last season.
The agreement also could clear the way for the Broncos to
continue negotiations with the Washington Redskins on a proposed
trade of running back Clinton Portis to the Redskins for cornerback
Champ Bailey. Because of salary cap concerns, Denver had hoped to
finalize Wilson's contract before dealing with the Redskins.
Wilson earned $1.095 million last season in the final year of
his original 1999 rookie contract. A first-round draft choice out
of Tennessee, he has led Denver in tackles for the last two
seasons. He had 128 tackles (99 solo) in 2003, and a career-high
199 tackles (158 solo) in 2002.
"Al is happy with this deal," Wilson's agent, Norm Nixon,
said. "He has played with these guys for five years, has a great
relationship with his coaches and knows the system. There's
something about having a comfort level.
"Everybody wanted to avoid the franchise tag. Al played for
five years under his original contract and never complained. This
was his time to be rewarded."
Last season Wilson was voted defensive captain by his teammates
and played in his third straight Pro Bowl.
Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said the sides were
"very, very, very close" to an agreement before the Pro Bowl on
Feb. 8. Wilson rejected that offer, however.
When talks reached a stalemate, it appeared likely the Broncos
would apply the franchise tag to Wilson.
Nixon called Sundquist on Friday to try to re-open the lines of
communication in hopes of resurrecting a long-term deal.
The Broncos have applied the franchise tag on two occasions in
Mike Shanahan's 10 years as head coach -- on safety Steve Atwater
(1995) and kicker Jason Elam (2002).2002