Denver Broncos: George Paton hire could lead to big QB move

Detroit Lions QB and possible Denver Broncos target Matthew Stafford
Detroit Lions QB and possible Denver Broncos target Matthew Stafford /

Denver Broncos: George Paton hire could lead to big QB move.

The Denver Broncos finished their first round of interviews for the general manager vacancy over the weekend, and it’s possible the team could move rather quickly to fill the role with Vikings executive George Paton and Saints executive Terry Fontenot being brought “in” for second interviews.

Actually, Fontenot cannot be brought “in” for a second interview but the Broncos will have a second interview with him via Zoom.

Paton, considered the front-runner for the job, will actually be brought in for a second interview.

If Paton winds up the next Denver Broncos general manager, the biggest and most pressing decision he will have to make will revolve around Drew Lock and the quarterback position.

As Mike Klis alluded to in his tweet (above), Paton and the Vikings have been involved in some interesting quarterback moves in recent years. Looking all the way back to 2009, the Vikings have made big moves to acquire veteran players at the position with mixed results.

2009: Signed veteran Brett Favre

2011: Drafted Christian Ponder (1st round)

2014: Drafted Teddy Bridgewater (1st round)

2016: Traded for Sam Bradford (1st round pick+)

2018: Signed veteran Kirk Cousins

The Vikings have obviously had mixed results with both veteran acquisitions and high draft choices in Paton’s tenure with the team. Obviously, he was not making the final calls over GM Rick Spielman, but we can reasonably assume that Paton had substantial say in the Vikings’ roster given the number of jobs he’s turned down to stay in Minneapolis.

The signing of Brett Favre was wildly entertaining from an outside perspective and the Vikings came within inches of a Super Bowl appearance in his first year with the team. The second year of the Favre era resulted in the Vikings ultimately drafting Christian Ponder, which was probably a very similar situation the Broncos faced in 2016 when Peyton Manning retired (and they drafted Paxton Lynch).

After giving Ponder a legit shot to be the guy for a couple of seasons, the Vikings traded into the back end of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to get Teddy Bridgewater, whose slide nearly out of the first round was quite surprising.

As a rookie in 2014, Bridgewater earned himself a second year on the job and the Vikings were kind of the “it” team in 2015. They gave the eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos all they could handle and even though he didn’t have huge numbers, the Vikings were rolling with Bridgewater at QB.

After building around Bridgewater, the Vikings had to completely change course in 2016 when he suffered a career-threatening leg injury in practice. They traded a first-round pick and more for Sam Bradford, and Bradford completed over 71 percent of his passes in his first year with the Vikings.

Bradford appeared well on his way to putting the Vikings in contention through the first pair of games in the 2017 season before an injury ended his year and essentially his career.

Case Keenum took over and the Vikings wound up going on a nice run with Pat Shurmur as their offensive coordinator and one of the top rosters in the NFL overall.

In 2018, the Vikings were extremely aggressive, luring top free agent Kirk Cousins from the Washington Football Team on a contract that was essentially fully guaranteed.

The Vikings re-upped on Cousins and are currently married to him at least through 2021 and probably 2022 as well.

From the outside, it’s easy to judge the Vikings’ decisions at quarterback in hindsight but the reality is, they have had a roster they believed had a championship window starting in 2015 and they have been on and off contenders ever since due to the somewhat revolving door at the quarterback position.

Even with their revolving door at quarterback, the Vikings have been in the postseason more than the Broncos since Denver won Super Bowl 50, making it in 2017 with Case Keenum at quarterback and then again in 2019 with Cousins.

What has Paton learned from all of this?

As an executive, Paton obviously is capable of seeing both sides of the coin when it comes to making significant acquisitions at the quarterback position.

Committing huge assets into the quarterback position is not the only way to win in today’s NFL, but does Paton believe the Broncos have a franchise QB in Drew Lock? If he doesn’t believe that, does he believe in the players available in the 2021 NFL Draft (at least the ones realistically available to the Broncos)?

My gut is telling me that Paton will look at his history in the NFL and see that the most success he has had has come from acquiring proven veterans at the quarterback position. The Vikings had multiple first-round picks the year they selected Teddy Bridgewater (2014) so that selection was bordering on playing with house money.

The good news is, Paton has also seen what buying into a sub-optimal short-term option can do to the franchise when the Vikings traded for Matt Cassel and let him start nine games as a sort of bridge quarterback prior to giving the keys to Bridgewater.

If a player like Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions is truly available in the 2021 offseason, it’s not hard to see why anyone would assume Paton would be interested in bringing him to the Broncos, should he be named GM of the team.

He has seen how adding veterans at the position can impact the roster on the whole, even if signing Kirk Cousins hasn’t exactly had the Vikings in legitimate contention over the last three years.

Do the Broncos have a roster that is ready to make some noise in the playoffs if you add a piece like Stafford? What about whatever it costs in draft capital? Can you make up for that with other assets?

There is plenty of risk involved there. The least costly option for the Broncos would be to try for a ‘hedge’ in the 2021 offseason to put behind (and push) Drew Lock in 2021. As a matter of fact, that may be the best and most prudent option with the progression Lock showed over the final half of the season.

With that being said, a new general manager will bring a new perspective. They do not have to share in the Broncos’ devotion to Drew Lock, and that was not a requirement for this job, at least not that any of us knows about.

Paton’s time in Minnesota did not result in any World Championships, but his wide array of experiences with acquiring quarterbacks in different ways could lead to a massive change for the Broncos at the position.