New Broncos’ GM George Paton has been doing a lot of film work since being hired a little over a month ago, and his primary agenda seems clear - finding a way to keep a bunch of players.
The first step was franchise tagging Justin Simmons for another season to bide some time to work out a long-term deal.
The day before news broke of the tag on Simmons, Paton let it be known that he wants No. 31 to remain a Bronco for a long time.
“Justin is one of our core guys. Our goal since I got here is to sign him to a long-term deal,” Paton said. “He’s the type of guy we want to extend.”
And the second step seems to be finding a way to keep Shelby Harris.
“Shelby is a priority in free agency. We’d love to have Shelby back,” Paton said, noting that he’s had good conversations with Harris’ agent, Brian Williams. “He’s a really good football player and a good person. I know Vic’s spoken with him. I’ve spoken with him early. He’s a guy we definitely want back.”
Shelby Harris this past season:— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) February 26, 2021
88.3 grade (top 10 among interior defenders)
83.5 pass rushing grade (top 10 among interior defenders)
76.1 run defense grade (top 20 among defensive tackles) pic.twitter.com/x5Ybpruf4O
But the GM also answered to plans about Kareem Jackson, Tim Patrick, Alexander Johnson, Ja’Wuan James and Melvin Gordon III.
The Broncos intend to tender both Johnson and Patrick, but at what level is still to be determined.
“Again, two good football players that we look forward to being here in the future,” Paton said.
The Broncos are awaiting the outcome on Gordon’s trial for a DUI last fall, which will likely bring an NFL suspension.
As for Jackson, Paton says there are still things to work out, but he looks forward to getting a deal done.
“We would like Kareem back,” Paton said. “He’s a good football player and a good leader. We’ll see if we can do that.”
James, who had been hurt much of 2019, sat out 2020 for COVID-19 concerns. But he’s been working out and has told his coaches and Paton he is excited to play.
“He’s ready to go. He said he missed football. He’s looking forward to getting here and working and being with his teammates,” Paton said, adding that he has spoken with James. “I’m looking forward to meeting him and seeing him play next year.”
If it seems Paton has been burning the midnight oil to get up to speed on the players of his new team - as well as prepare for free agency and the draft - it would not be a lie.
In fact, he and Fangio have been burning that oil together at headquarters.
“We did a deep dive into our team. I went into Vic’s office last night at 8:45 and he was watching college prospects,” Paton said. “We’re like-minded. We both like to work and we like to talk football. He has a great sense of humor. It’s been really good, and it’s been better than I anticipated.”
It seems the two are also aligned on the type of football player they want to bring in - beyond talent at their given positions.
“We talk about the players as performers on the field, but also where they’re at in their career and how important they are to the team from an intangible standpoint,” Fangio said. “We’re constantly talking about that all time.”
But while both Paton and Fangio are hoping to keep several of their own free agents, both acknowledged some needs that will have to be addressed outside.
Namely at cornerback, but also at several spots along the defense.
“I think in this league—Vic can tell you better than I can—you need pressure and you need cover players,” Paton said. “You look at the good defenses around the league, teams can rush the quarterback and teams can cover. That is going to be a priority here. Vic will tell you that more than I will, but definitely a priority.”