ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Russell Wilson flashed that mile-wide smile and embraced the prospect of playing in the loaded AFC and in the shadows of John Elway and Peyton Manning.
“I want to win three to four more Super Bowls. That’s the plan, that’s the goal, that’s the mission, that’s the vision,” Wilson declared Wednesday after the NFL signed off on the biggest blockbuster trade of the offseason.
“So, let’s do it. Why not?” the former Seahawks QB added as he scanned the auditorium where Elway himself, now a consultant to general manager George Paton, stood smiling in the back.
The deal agreed to last week sent the star 33-year-old quarterback from Seattle to the Rocky Mountains for a massive package of picks and players.
Wilson said he picked Manning’s brain about making a mid-career transition, about schools in Denver, and about the organization once it became apparent he’d get his wish and move to Colorado for the second — and he hopes, final — chapter of his stellar career.
Although the trade couldn’t be finalized until the start of the new league year Wednesday, Wilson and his wife, R&B singer-songwriter Ciara, already have visited sick children in Denver just like the couple used to do in Seattle.
Wilson said he aims to play 10 to 12 more seasons and finish his career in Denver after a fruitful decade in Seattle, where the Seahawks made it clear in congratulatory Twitter posts Wednesday that Wilson was the one who had asked for the breakup.
“Yeah, I didn’t initiate it,” Wilson retorted. “It was definitely mutual.”
He also insisted he harbors no ill will toward his former team.
“Hard feelings? No. I had 10 incredible years” there, Wilson said. “… And what I do know is that some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, from Manning to Tom Brady, Drew Brees, have gone from one place to another, guys I’ve always known and admired. So, in this moment, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue to grow and learn.”
Wilson said he believes he’s not even halfway through his NFL career because of his work ethic and focus on health and nutrition. He didn’t miss a game until last year, when a fractured right middle finger sidelined him for a month after he’d started his first 165 games, including 16 in the playoffs.
Wilson becomes the first QB to join the team he beat in the Super Bowl, having vanquished the Broncos 43-8 after the 2013 season. Now he wants to follow Manning and Brady in winning a Super Bowl with his second team.
“Their best years are 30- to 40-plus range,” Wilson said. “You see Tom coming back, Drew as long as he played, you know. So, to me, I ain’t even got started yet.”
Wilson isn’t just playing in the shadow of great quarterbacks in a QB-crazed city, he’s joining an AFC that’s loaded with the likes of Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. He’s also now part of the division’s Mount Rushmore of Quarterbacks in the AFC West that also features Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr.
“Well, first of all, why would you want it any other way?” Wilson said. “I want to compete at the highest level. So, I think first of all, we need to talk about John Elway, about Peyton Manning.”
He recounted going to the Manning passing camp as a high schooler and meeting Manning in Denver on a visit before the Seahawks drafted him out of Wisconsin in 2012 — after he decided to quit baseball (he was once in the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system) and focus on football.
“So, those kind of memories, it’s an honor, it’s a tradition, it’s a place of excellence,” Wilson said. “And that’s the standard that I have to bring every day. That’s the only thing I know.”
And as far as the AFC West goes, Wilson said, “I want to play with the best. I don’t fear anything.”
Wilson has two years left on his contract that will pay him $24 million in 2022, although the Broncos might give him a new megadeal before the season even begins, one that could double his annual salary.
In Seattle, GM John Schneider said it had become apparent to the Seahawks it would be difficult to sign Wilson to an extension beyond his current contract that is set to expire after 2023.
“I don’t know if those were the exact words,” Schneider said, “but we were under the impression that there wouldn’t be a long-term extension.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he never wanted to lose Wilson but “we’re surprised at how good a deal came to us.”
That deal includes first- and second-round picks this year and next along with QB Drew Lock, DE Shelby Harris and TE Noah Fant.
“It wasn’t about (a soured) relationship. It was about opportunity,” Carroll said. “… He’s seen a lot of great players and great athletes do a lot of great things by making that move somewhere in their career, whether it was the quarterbacks that we know of, what happens in the NBA, baseball guys do it.
“I think it intrigued him, and so it made it available after a long discussion, a lot of time together and all that, that we were eye to eye, OK, let’s go down this road and see what happens.”
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed.