One of the strongest points of emphasis for the Denver Broncos this offseason has been re-signing their own free agents. Entering his first season as general manager, George Paton had to make his stamp on a new franchise. The Denver Broncos had numerous decisions to make from Justin Simmons to Shelby Harris.
The phrase “taking care of your own” sets a precedence for future free agents on the team. Paton has answered every single question regarding in-house free agents.
There were two layups if you will regarding Simmons and Harris. Simmons has solidified himself as arguably the best player at his position and franchise cornerstone for the Denver Broncos. Letting him walk would have been a mistake, point-blank.
Harris has bounced a bit before landing in the perfect situation with Denver. He has become one of the best defensive linemen at playmaking and is one of the top run defenders in the NFL. Long story short, Harris found a home not for himself but for his family. Both he and Simmons are creating futures on and off-field in Denver. This made Paton’s decision a slam dunk.
The other significant move Paton made was exercising the option of Von Miller. Miller is the franchise’s best player since John Elway and Peyton Manning. It would have been a difficult decision to let a player of his caliber walk to free agency. Paton decided to pick up Miller’s option keeping him in Denver’s plans for 2021 and potentially beyond.
Miller has said repeatedly he wants to retire a Bronco. It is understandable why the video Miller posted on Instagram was an emotional tear-jerker. The uncertainty surrounding the decision more than likely made his stress level high. Based on where Miller was last season pre-injury he was destined for a monster year.
Miller has continued his training and appears destined to be a huge part of the team’s success in 2021. The other factor in Miller’s option being picked up is how his impact goes beyond the box score. Creating double teams and still making plays when they arose is good for his age. Run defense is still where it needs to be with Miller and he remains quick enough to create hurries. Like Harris and Simmons, it was an easy decision.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence of the “taking care of your own” mantra with Paton came from Kareem Jackson. At Jackson’s age, it was uncertain if Denver would pick up his option. His play has still been great under Vic Fangio, but the opportunity to look early for replacements in both free agency and the NFL Draft is intriguing.
Thus, the option was declined for Jackson making him an unrestricted free agent. The future was uncertain for him. Paton became patient waiting out the market on safety to see it unfold. After his former safety with the Vikings Anthony Harris signed in Philadelphia it created an opening for a return of Kareem Jackson in Denver. Paton decided to bring back Jackson on the same deal Harris got to return to the Mile High City. His patience paid off.
Securing four massive in-house free agents creates precedence for future Denver Broncos free agents. Players like Bradley Chubb, Noah Fant, and Courtland Sutton are in line for big deals soon. What Paton created is the power of reward.
If players perform the way they and Paton expect, then a nice paycheck is in store for them to remain with the team. This is the importance of Paton’s path to success in his first season. Some initial hate will come from the thought process of letting running back Phillip Lindsay hit free agency to sign with Houston.
Lindsay was a huge piece for Denver two years straight upon entering the NFL in 2018. He is the first undrafted free agent to run for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and he became the heartbeat of the offense.
Unfortunately, things took a turn with Pat Shurmur’s offense. Injuries were a problem and the fit on both sides took its toll. It’s understandable the criticism from locals regarding fans to Paton here, but with the performance of Melvin Gordon and the running back draft class in 2021, potential replacements were worth considering.
Overall Paton’s first handful months have been a massive success crossing his top priorities off his checklist. In doing so, he has created a lasting impression for those on the roster with future contracts and players who fit the draft/develop piece Paton wants.
So far, Paton’s decisions are a roaring success. Now comes his greatest strength…where he as a scout takes over. Will Paton give Drew Lock the second chance to shut up the haters one last time? Will Paton make the move for a quarterback in a draft class that seems loaded with four to five potential quarterbacks and a top-10 pick?
All eyes now turn to draft night with George Paton…