Broncos Update Inside Slant - Monday, March 1

To say players were shocked at news that the team intended to trade away young superstar Clinton Portis is an understatement. Read about their reactions as well as the latest notes, quotes, annecdotes and personnel updates in today's edition of the Broncos Update Inside Slant.

But the shock waves would have been greater had the team not signed middle linebacker Al Wilson to a new deal, one that will pay him an $11 million signing bonus.

Players don't like to see players from other teams given the big bucks while guys who have given their blood, sweat and tears in Denver are sent packing. It just doesn't set a good precedent, especially for a team that saw the Broncos do that last year with defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (free-agent was signed to a seven-year, $34.8 million deal only to self-destruct in Denver).

Wilson is the heart and soul of Denver's defense, and is a big reason why the players are so close.

"Honestly, it got to a point that I didn't know what as going to happen," Wilson said of negotiations that could have resulted in signing with a new team or having the franchise tag placed on him.

"I was willing to do whatever to just be able to play football. I've never been caught up in the money or anything like that, so when it came down to the final decision and I knew we would be able to get the deal done, it took a thousand pounds of pressure off my back.

"I'm definitely happy to be a Denver Bronco again."

Wilson's deal will pay him $42 million over seven years. The big question now is whether the Broncos linebacking corps will remain intact, with Ian Gold likely headed to the open market and John Mobley still recovering from a spinal cord injury.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--TE Shannon Sharpe acknowledged that RB Clinton Portis might have hurt his relationship with the Broncos brass by complaining about his contract.

"I'm old fashioned, but you don't negotiate in the paper. That's why you hire an agent. You don't let personal feelings get involved," Sharpe said. I just wish he had handled it differently. Maybe I'm at fault for not pulling him aside and saying, 'Clinton, there's a certain way you do things.'"

Then again, Sharpe said, there's no guarantee things would have worked out differently had Portis kept quiet.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Being in the Pro Bowl and having a chance to talk to Peyton Manning and all those guys, I'm so glad to be back here because I get an opportunity to get back at them. They embarrassed us the last game, and this gives me a chance and the organization a chance to redeem ourselves from that terrible loss." -- Wilson on re-signing with Denver less than two months after the Broncos were pounded by Manning and Co. in a wild card game.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos are in the process of restructuring the deals of linebacker John Mobley and tackle Matt Lepsis - moves that will free up some cap space to facilitate the trade for Champ Bailey.

The team still has a big decision to make on veteran wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, but whether he ultimately decides to retire there's no way he'll be paid $4.5 million next year. Ditto for tackle Ephraim Salaam, who won't be getting the $5 million roster bonus in March.

NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: The Broncos draft No. 24, and also will hold the No. 42 pick overall if the deal with Washington goes through. Since they're trading away RB Clinton Portis, look for them to use one of those picks on a running back if the guy they like is there.

Many insiders thought maybe they'd use it on a tight end, but Shannon Sharpe is sounding more and more like he wants to return. If they can get their hands on a top wide receiver, they would jump at it too.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (12): DE Bertrand Berry; OT Blake Brockermeyer; LB Keith Burns; WR Chris Cole; FB Reuben Droughns; LB Ian Gold TE Patrick Hape; LS Mike Leach; S Ryan McNeil; LB Johnny Rutledge; CB Jimmy Spencer; CB Scott Turner.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (4): OG Ben Hamilton; DE Reggie Hayward; OG Steve Herndon; LB Donnie Spragan.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (2): CB Kelly Herndon; S Chris Young.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: LB Al Wilson.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.

PLAYERS LOST: None.

MEDICAL WATCH: LB Ian Gold is ready to go for the team's offseason workout program scheduled to start March 27, and has begun running sprints. He is showing no signs of the torn ACL he suffered last fall; LB John Mobley isn't yet healed from spinal cord injury but hopes to return at least for part of mini-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.

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