Two years ago, the Broncos failed to finalize a deal with linebacker John Mobley before he went on the open market. But Mobley eventually re-signed. It helped that he was Mike Shanahan's first-ever draft pick as head coach of the Broncos. Wilson may be even more valuable. He is the heart and soul of the Broncos defense and a fan favorite.
He is expected to rake in a signing bonus comparable to those given to fellow linebackers such as Atlanta's Keith Brooking ($10.6 million) and Buffalo's Takeo Spikes ($10.5 million) but short of the ceiling established by Baltimore's Ray Lewis ($18 million) and Chicago's Brian Urlacher ($19 million). And if a deal can't be reached, the Broncos can slap a franchise tag on him, which will pay him $5.834 million in 2004.
"It's going to work out either way," agent Norm Nixon said. "I don't want to see him get franchised. I don't want the tag on him. But I'm still hopeful at this stage that we can make something happen. Al understands his value. He knows what he brings. And I can say this has not been a negative negotiation."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--Terrell Davis still hasn't uttered the R word but he is sounding more and more at peace with life after football.
"I'm starting to get real comfortable with not playing football. I'm very comfortable," he said while working for the NFL Network at the Super Bowl.
Davis spends most of his time in San Diego, where he bought a house and started a land development company. Though his handicap is down near single digits, he isn't playing as much golf as he envisioned.
"I swear when I left I said I'm getting down to where I can join the celebrity circuit," he said. "But the joy of playing golf was playing with John Mobley, playing with Detron (Smith), with Rod (Smith) and competing with those guys. Now when they're not there and I'm out in San Diego playing, there's no thrill in it. I'm playing with arbitrary people ...the competition isn't there."
Davis rewrote many of the Broncos' record books during the first four years of his career, rushing for 6,413 yards and 56 touchdowns. But he was limited to just 1,194 yards over the next three because of foot and knee injuries and he hasn't played since the 2001 season finale. He said the left knee is still troublesome.
"I ran on it a few times and I can run with great strength in it and do everything, then all of a sudden, I try to make a move without thinking about it and it just wants to buckle," he said.
The result is sharp pain shooting through the arthritic knee.
"When that happens, I'm like, you know what, I'm cool. I don't have anything else to go out there and play for. I'm getting too old anyway," he said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The media's making a bigger deal of it than it is, and I don't like that." - Portis on reports that he would hold out if he didn't get a new deal
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Negotiations with Wilson are said to be about 90 percent complete, but the team still has the option of slapping a franchise tag on the middle linebacker. That isn't the plan and the hope is Wilson's deal will be wrapped up within a few weeks.
Negotiations should be easier with Berry, Gold and Droughns. Gold is coming off a torn ACL and has something to prove, while Berry and Droughns were given new life in the NFL by the Broncos so they are eager to return.
FEELING A DRAFT: The Broncos draft No. 24, and there's some thought that if Shannon Sharpe retires as expected, they'll go for a tight end in the same mold. Jeb Putzier was thought to be that guy but he hasn't progressed the way the team thought, partially because of injuries. Denver also could use another cornerback but after going bust two years in a row they may be reluctant to go that direction again. They also need more help along the defensive line, especially if Daryl Gardener doesn't return. The team also needs an impact player on special teams, someone to handle returns, and possible help at wide receiver, another need area.
MEDICAL WATCH: LB Ian Gold is ahead of schedule and should be ready for workouts by the team's May mini-camp. He suffered a torn ACL but has proven he's a fast healer.
--LB John Mobley will require most of the offseason to heal from a spinal cord injury but he should be ready for training camp.
--S Nick Ferguson should be ready for Denver's offseason workouts in April after breaking his arm.
--WR Charlie Adams had right knee scoped Jan. 14 for debridement.
--OG Dan Neil had scar tissue removed from his left knee on Jan. 14.
--OT George Foster had right ankle scoped Jan. 14 for debridement.
--OT Matt Lepsis had left ankle scoped Jan. 14 for debridement.