The Denver Broncos were one of the biggest players in free agency every year during Peyton Manning’s run, but in the years since, they’ve been much quieter. Now that they have an elite quarterback yet again, they’re back to being major bidders for top veteran talent.
Adding Russell Wilson has made the Broncos a much more appealing landing spot. This isn’t just the George Paton effect, as it’s been made clear — based on the comments of Wilson’s new teammates and Wilson’s own actions — that the highly touted signal-caller has already been impactful in luring free agents.
While the Broncos were in a bidding war with the Dallas Cowboys, Wilson reportedly called Randy Gregory eight times in a single night, just to attempt to land the star pass rusher for Denver.
“[Getting those calls] is big for me because my biggest thing is feeling wanted and having that support,” Gregory said. “The first night I was afraid to answer back, there was a lot of uncertainty with everything going on. I woke up the next morning and the first text I saw was from him again. Then he sent me another one. I said you know what—and mind you, he’s FaceTiming me throughout this whole entire process. Just having him there in the back of my mind really helped, and being able to sit down and talk to him on FaceTime.”
Gregory also noted how Wilson’s private demeanor seemed to be very similar to his extremely friendly front-facing persona.
“It’s funny—he was coming from the Children’s Hospital. There’s a certain image he has out in the public. It was funny—I was telling my parents, and I was telling my wife—I was like, ‘He’s literally what he is out in the public.’ He’s coming from a Children’s [Hospital], taking the time to call a guy that he’s trying to bring to the team. So talking to him and talking about the culture, talking about the guys, we talked about real estate, the areas to live in, things like that. Got to say hi to Ciara, his wife, so it was a real fun experience. It was really stressful [more] than I thought the experience was going to be in free agency. But the staff here from top to bottom, and then obviously Russell [Wilson], the way he handled it, made this whole process that much easier.”
Gregory did make sure to note that Denver would have been appealing to him with or without Wilson, but it was clear the former Seattle Seahawk made an impact.
“It was even more attractive knowing that [Wilson] was there, knowing the caliber [of] player and person he is, and knowing the pieces that were there,” Gregory told the media. “For me, I’m a defensive guy but I understand the importance of having a good offensive unit and the effect it can have on you as a defense and the effect they can have on the season and the games as a whole. That was really the biggest selling point was the wide receivers [Denver] has, the running back [Denver] has. Like I said earlier, I had the ability to play against you guys, and I went in thinking one thing about the team and it felt completely different after the game. So to answer your question, yes, [QB] Russell Wilson was probably—if not the top reason, one of the top reasons why I was able to get out here. Just his ability to reach out and stay relentless, much like the front office did with me and my agent. I’m glad it worked out the way it did.’
General Manager Paton echoed the sentiment of Wilson’s value in free agency during Gregory’s presser too.
“It’s beneficial when I can text a franchise quarterback and that night, he calls a guy eight times,” Paton said. “That’s pretty special, especially when it’s someone like Russell Wilson. He has a busy life and a big family. He’ll drop everything, whether he’s at a children’s hospital or with his family, to FaceTime with Randy Gregory. It’s pretty cool. I know he did so with D.J. [Jones] and some of the other guys we’ve talked to.”
In fact, it has even been reported by prominent NFL insider Peter Schrager that Jones took less money to come play alongside Wilson in Denver.
Russell Wilson Effect.
Mentioned this on @gmfb in our closing statements today… the intangible impact of trading for Wilson is that players want to play with him. D.J. Jones was offered more elsewhere.
Presence of Peyton Manning helped lure Welker, Ware, Sanders, Talib… https://t.co/f5UbMOtnKu
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) March 15, 2022
To be fair, during his introductory press conference, Jones poured some cold water on those rumors, but he also didn’t deny the report.
“I wouldn’t say there was more money on the table — and go all the way into the money and everything,” Jones said. “I’ll let you all write the stories. But Russell Wilson was a big part of the reason I came here.”
Jones further discussed the appeal of playing with Wilson throughout the press conference.
“We had a lot of love from teams, but I felt like this was home from the jump—especially when they made the move on ‘Russ’,” Jones said. “I knew it was somewhere I wanted to be. I want to win immediately. That’s what they’re doing here. That’s what we are doing here.”
Broncos Country has been starved of winning for far too long.