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George Paton: Asking Russell Wilson to change contract was independent of benching him

Broncos General Manager George Paton says that his request that Russell Wilson change the injury guarantees in his contract were a separate issue from Broncos head coach Sean Payton's decision to bench Wilson late in the season.

Wilson has characterized the Broncos as having told him they would bench him unless he changed his contract. Paton says that's not how the communication with Wilson's camp went.

"During the bye week I did reach out to Russ's agent in a good faith and creative attempt to adjust his contract. We couldn't get a deal done. We moved on with our season. It didn't come up again. Fast forward Week 17, Sean makes a change at the quarterback position. This was a football decision made by Sean in what he thought was the best interests of the team. This was completely independent of any conversations I had with the agent. Again, it was a football decision made by Sean. In regards of the negotiations, I'll just keep the specifics private out of respect for really everyone involved. Negotiations are hard. You have difficult conversations, tough conversations, and you can characterize negotiations really any way you want. We always try to handle ourselves professionally and in the best interests of the Broncos, and this was no different."

The Broncos still claim the door is open to Wilson returning in 2024. It's hard to see that happening, even if Paton insists that the Broncos didn't threaten Wilson with a benching to try to strong-arm him into changing his contract.