Russini What I39m hearing about Russell Wilson Jaire Alexander and

Russini: What I'm hearing about Russell Wilson, Jaire Alexander and more in NFL Week 17 – The Athletic

Russell Wilson had the Denver Broncos engagement ring, but Sean Payton wasn't the one to put it on his finger. Now the engagement is over and Wilson's time in Denver is almost over.

Wilson is open to being cut by the Broncos before March 17, 2024, when his $37 million salary for 2025 would be guaranteed. Still, he will leave the race with a lot of money, almost $120 million in the last two years.

Payton retains all the power, but that was never a situation. It's been Payton's team since the day he was hired this year. The Broncos hired him with the understanding that he would do things a certain way. His way.

He was tasked with evaluating the quarterback and figuring out how to completely transform an organization that has no identity and no direction. For that to happen, the Broncos owner had to give Payton the opportunity to evaluate and evaluate his quarterback this season, regardless of the financial commitment. These are conversations that occurred during the recruiting process, not Week 17.

Difficult decisions had to be made and difficult conversations had to be had in Denver. Ownership allowed football guys Payton and general manager George Paton to make the decision, and they did.

The Broncos still have a chance to make the playoffs if they win with help from other teams, and they believe Jarrett Stidham gives them “a spark” with two games left.

Wilson played the last two months knowing the Broncos weren't sure he was the future. The quarterback didn't have to speak to reporters, but decided to tell the media Friday that after beating the Chiefs for the first time since 2015, Paton contacted Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, and told them if they would back out if in his contract If an injury guarantee was included, he would be benched. The Athletic reported this on Wednesday. A league source also said that the team gave Wilson a deadline to make this decision and that he decided not to transfer or waive injury guarantees. Wilson continued to start despite the Broncos wanting to adjust his contract.


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Payton says he is “not privy” to the discussions the team has had with Wilson about his contract. The team has not commented further.

The pairing of Payton and Wilson was not perfect, and although Payton tried to manage and rewire Wilson, it was obvious that they were two different types of people with two different philosophies and preferred attacking styles. Payton has to trust his quarterback, and he didn't trust Wilson. He wants the offense to run the way he wants it to, and that would never happen with Wilson.

A friend of mine once told me that if he shows you the signs that he's not into you, believe him. We've all seen the signs this season, and so has Wilson.

Now Stidham gets his chance to see if he can partner with Payton and perhaps lead them to the playoffs… and beyond.

For all marbles

Both the Ravens and Dolphins will look to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC when they face off in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon. Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is looking for ways to stop Lamar Jackson after watching the Ravens offense pick apart San Francisco's physical, talented defense on Monday night. Fangio has been coaching football for more than 40 years and when asked if he would face a quarterback like Jackson, he told the team's website: “I've seen a lot of mobile quarterbacks. Then there's Lamar Jackson.” Fangio believes Jackson is different than everyone else. “The only other player who has been like him in the last 50 years is Michael Vick.”

Wow. I've had several conversations with Fangio over the years and trust me when I say he makes it as clear at a birthday party as any of my Italian aunts and uncles. This isn't a classic Bill Belichick head game about loving the opposing quarterback. That's the ultimate respect from one of the best defensive players in the game. Jackson is very special.


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However, this is the same quarterback who was not approached by any other team when he made it public on March 2nd that he had requested a trade. He tweeted to the world that he wanted to leave Baltimore.

Technically, Jackson wasn't a free agent, as a team would have had to give the Ravens two first-round picks to sign him if Baltimore didn't match the offer, but no team even tried. Ravens sources always said they wouldn't let Jackson go, and even though most of the league knew that, not a single general manager, coach or owner tried to lure Jackson out of Maryland. All a team had to do was call Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, negotiate a deal with Jackson and see if a deal could be struck. But none of that happened, and for some around the league, that lack of movement could jeopardize their job status. Look at the coaches and general managers who passed on taking on Jackson even though they were desperate for a quarterback: Ron Rivera, Bill Belichick, Arthur Smith, Josh McDaniels, Frank Reich. Two have already been fired, one is expected to be fired and two appear to be 50/50.

So why hasn’t any team made this decision? Multiple league sources said they were concerned about Jackson's past injuries and potential injuries as a mobile quarterback, and some had concerns about guaranteeing money in his contract since it was reported that Jackson wanted a fully guaranteed deal like the Browns had Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam had presented it to quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Jackson, who does not have an agent, was ultimately paid by Baltimore. He received $185 million of the $260 million guaranteed, so he was technically flexible, but no team knew that because no one even called.

Jackson is now the MVP favorite playing his best football and staying healthy, and at the same time the Ravens' defense is on track to do something no team has done in the Super Bowl era: top the league in terms of things Takeaways, sacks and scoring defense.

Those grades will be tested by a Dolphins offense that thrives on explosive plays, and the status of Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton could make the task more difficult.

The current AFC Defensive Player of the Week enters the weekend with a knee injury that makes him questionable for this game. Hamilton has shown this season that he can impact the game at all three levels, and his range roaming the deep part of the court would be crucial against a deep pass-heavy Miami offense. His athleticism would also be crucial in covering the Dolphins' slot receivers while also fitting into the run game like a linebacker.

According to Next Gen Stats, since the start of last season, the Ravens defense has a passer rating allowed of 75.7 with Hamilton on the field and 96.1 without him. He's a big part of this defense. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and his staff have found ways to be successful despite other injuries to key players in their secondary like Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Williams, but the Ravens are much stronger with Hamilton on the field.

Baker's millions

Baker Mayfield hit free agency after last season and wanted to sign with a team that would allow him to compete for a starting quarterback job. He also wanted a place that had the potential to be a long-term home, and it seems he found just the thing.

Nine months after signing Mayfield to a one-year deal, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in position to win the NFC South. And Mayfield has a million dollars on him too. Now playing for his fourth team, Mayfield has $4.5 million worth of incentives written into his contract, including a $1 million bonus for the Bucs winning the NFC South. If the Bucs beat the Saints on Sunday, they will win the division for the third straight year. As for the future? Two league sources told me both sides want to make this work long-term.

What was he thinking?

The Green Bay Packers must win against the Vikings on Sunday to make the playoffs, and they will be without their top cornerback, Jaire Alexander.

In Week 16, Alexander made the strange decision to name himself captain. Before the coin toss to start the game against the Panthers, Alexander joined the Packers captains at the 50-yard line. But he's not a captain, he just walked right up to her. When the official asked for a call on the throw, Alexander called “tails” and won. Alexander then almost made a gigantic mistake when he told the officials the Packers wanted to start on defense (which is not the same as deferring until the second half). In other words, Alexander almost gave the Panthers the ball to start both halves.


Why the Packers suspended star CB Jaire Alexander: 'It's never because of one thing'

After the game, Alexander explained that he was stepping down as captain because he was home in Charlotte, and he made no apologies.

Then the Packers decided to suspend him for Sunday night's game against one of the elite receivers in football, Justin Jefferson. Do you know who the Packers could really use in this game? The highest paid corner in football: Jaire Alexander. Although head coach Matt LaFleur explained that the decision to suspend Alexander was due to more than just this situation, it is unclear what other issues the Packers have been dealing with in the building. Two league sources said Alexander is not considered a “problem child” within the organization and although he has struggled with injuries all season, he wants to play. In fact, it's been made very clear that the Packers are looking forward to him being back on the roster in Week 18 and being a part of the Packers' future.

It could be a coin toss how this game turns out.

(Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

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