Wilson deal may seal Portis' departure

Updated: February 24, 2004, 9:16 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Al Wilson agreed Tuesday to a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Denver Broncos.

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


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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