DENVER — He's subtle, this George Paton.
Thrice Thursday the new Broncos general manager name-dropped sports agents — Bill Johnson (who represents Ja'Wuan James), Jason Chayut (Kareem Jackson) and Ryan Williams (Shelby Harris). As one (unnamed) agent told me after: “Can’t hurt ... we read everything.”
He’s a workaholic, this George Paton. The Broncos website shadowed Paton on his morning commute to UCHealth Training Center. Paton, an early riser, clocked in to the job at 4:50 a.m.
“I went into Vic (Fangio’s) office last night at 8:45 and he’s watching a college prospect,” Paton said, sounding like a proud co-worker who best relates to the grinders of the football world.
He’s not going to rebuild the Broncos in one offseason, this George Paton. Sorry to crush dreams of Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson, but nothing Paton has said since he arrived in January suggests the Broncos will push all their chips into the 2021 season — unless an otherworldly deal presents itself. That trend continued Thursday when the theme of Paton's message was a brick-by-brick, deliberate build of a Broncos roster that has so many holes to fill.
One man's takeaway: the next Broncos will flirt with the playoffs only if the players injured last year return better than ever. There was no big splash suggested anywhere in Paton’s tenor.
“You never want to go crazy in free agency,” he said.
The good news is the Broncos want to bring all your favorite players back.
The bad news is the Broncos, who went 5-11, want to bring all your favorite players back.
“We want to bring Von back,” Paton said.
“We want Phillip here.”
“We’d love to have Shelby back.”
“We would like Kareem back.”
And A.J. Johnson and Tim Patrick? Take a guess.
“Two good football players (that) we look forward to being here in the future,” Paton said.
Unless my eyes and ears deceive me, Paton envisions a long-haul project. He sees correctly.
“You don’t want to build your team in free agency. You want to fill selected needs going into the draft. That’s been my philosophy,” he said. “You don’t always want to be the first one out of the gate and throw all your money (in). But if there’s something unique you’ll take a shot.”
The year 2020 was the longest decade ever. But it has been 1,852 days since the Broncos last participated in a playoff game. And it has not been “The Adventure of a Lifetime” that Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Coldplay promised during the halftime show at Super Bowl 50.
The Broncos are banking on their injured players returning in full force. Some of their most significant “additions” were already here, but hurt. In all of the NFL, the Broncos had the most total cash placed on injured reserve — $41.9 million, according to Spotrac.com.
These players spent all or part of the season on injured reserve: Mark Barron, Essang Bassey, Andrew Beck, LeVante Bellamy, A.J. Bouye, Jake Butt, Jurrell Casey, Duke Dawson, Jonathan Harris (still don’t remember that name), Joel Heath, Ja’Wuan James, Dre’Mont Jones, Phillip Lindsay, Albert Okwuegbunam (still can’t pronounce that name), Kyle Peko, Mike Purcell, Justin Strnad, Courtland Sutton, Derrek Tuszka, DeMarcus Walker, Elijah Wilkinson, Kevin Tolliver.
Oh, and Von Miller, whom, as you might expect, Paton hopes will remain in orange and blue. After missing last season due to injury, Miller is under criminal investigation by Parker police.
“Obviously the legal process and what’s he going through, it’s a serious situation,” Paton said.
It would not surprise me in the least if the Broncos pursue Cowboys free agent Aldon Smith, who remains tight with Fangio from their San Francisco 49ers days. Could Aldon be Von’s successor? Stay tuned and stand by. He plays things close to the vest, this George Paton.
“I’ve said before we’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to be in every deal,” Paton said. “Doesn’t mean we’re going to make that deal, but we’re going to look into everything.”
Inside the building, where media no longer are allowed to go, Paton has been advertised as “someone who will turn over every rock.” Five-day work weeks are now seven-day marathons.
"Boots to the ground and working his butt off," Fangio said.
But is this George Paton the right GM to lead the Broncos back to relevancy and the postseason?
“I think we got a great, great one here,” Fangio said.
Stay tuned and stand by. Here’s a hunch the Broncos' turnaround happens later, not sooner.
He has his hands full, this George Paton.