Can George Paton close the gap on the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022?
Every passing year, February 7, 2016 only gets further away. It has now been five seasons since the Broncos sniffed the playoffs. Four seasons since they posted a winning record. For now, Broncos Country has little more than “win from now on” to cling to. Patrick Mahomes isn’t going anywhere, even if Father Time catches the ageless Tom Brady this off-season. A new general manager likely means patience as his vision is executed. George Paton was signed for six years so he may feel no pressure to chase a Lombardi in 2022. He could also decide that his best road forward is to go all in. Only time will tell.
Until Paton makes his move, all we have can do is speculate and mock.
1.9 Patrick Surtain II – Cornerback – Alabama
Everything I know about the Broncos defense under Vic Fangio suggests Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley is the better scheme fit and yet there’s a million reasons Paton may go with Surtain. There’s no rational way to blame anyone for opting out of football in a pandemic, but the gap between Draft day and Farley’s last snap for the Hokies creates a number of questions. Perhaps he doesn’t look like the player he did on November 21st, 2019 anymore. Maybe Surtain’s workout answers any lingering questions the Broncos have. There’s also the possibility Paton’s thinking long-term beyond the current regime.
2.41 Dillon Radunz – Tackle – North Dakota State
It took time and Mike Munchak for Garett Bolles to become an All Pro and it’d be wise to ensure the foundation is in place for elite bookends going forward. Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 injury and subsequent opt out in 2020 has created a situation where he is a $13 million question mark. It costs too much to cut him right now, but the Broncos can’t afford to start four other men at right tackle again. Radunz gives Munch a talented youngster who can provide depth at both spots as he grows into a starting role.
3.73 Hamilcar Rashed Jr. – Edge – Oregon State
Von Miller is a 32-year-old coming off a freak injury that ended his 2020 season before it ever began. Paton has until March to decide if it’s prudent to pick up the last year of Miller’s contract. If the Broncos decline it, they’ll have an extra $18 million to burn. The Beaver can step in behind Malik Reed and Bradley Chubb to try to ensure Fangio doesn’t run out of edge rushers down the stretch.
4.113 Marvin Wilson – Defensive Line – Florida State
The Broncos could create almost $12 million if they decide that Jurrell Casey was little more than a three game return on their 7th round pick. There’s no guarantee Paton decides to bring Shelby Harris back into the fold and DeMarcus Walker is also an unrestricted free agent. Marvin Wilson would give Bill Kollar a chance to develop another former five-star recruit.
5.136 Caden Sterns – Safety – Texas
The Broncos’ new boss could decide that he can find better ways to spend $12,882,353 than on a 34-year-old Kareem Jackson. Justin Simmons sits unsigned. The remaining depth chart consists of Trey Marshall. With his knack for coverage and versatility, Stern should be able to find a way to the field sooner or later.
6.190 Simi Fehoko – Receiver – Stanford
All signs point to a clean recovery from Courtland Sutton’s ACL injury as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. His backup is a Restricted Free Agent. The rest of the Broncos receiving corps. are separators who win on the horizontal plane or played 47 snaps. At 6’5 with the long speed to be a threat downfield and one heck of a gunslinger, Fehoko is a chunk play waiting to happen.
7.233 Chris Evans – Running Back – Michigan
If the Broncos place a tender on Phillip Lindsay and keep Melvin Gordon through his DUI suspension, their entire 2020 backfield will still play the new year on expiring deals. Paton’s Vikings didn’t hesitate to take a back and Shurmur has a type that looks a lot like Evans. An academic suspension and 2020 creates a ton of unknowns, but the tools are there to become Captain America.
7.235 Garret Wallow – Linebacker – TCU
The 29-year-old Alexander Johnson is a Restricted Free Agent who should return. Dating back to Paton’s hire in 2007, the Vikings rarely spent premium draft capital on backers. With Justin Strnad coming back from injury and an overachieving Josey Jewell, Fangio is tasked with making chicken salad out of leftovers. He chooses Wallow to give himself a potential coverage specialist to improve the pass defense.
7.235 Dicaprio Bootle – Defensive Back – Nebraska
Bryce Callahan enters a contract year after an injury derailed what was an elite 2020 season. He’ll be 30 in October and has never played 16 games in a single year. Behind him is an undrafted rookie from the previous general manager and Duke Dawson. You can never have too many corners in today’s NFL.
Patrick Mahomes isn’t going anywhere.