In a normal year, General Manager George Paton as well as Head Coach Vic Fangio would have held press conferences and done a number of interviews with Denver media last week at the Combine, but with no Combine this year, they spoke via zoom Thursday (and you can watch those below).
This time of year GM's typically play their cards close to the vest, but as we're getting to know Paton, we'll have to take everything he says on face value until proven otherwise. So, based on that premise, and mixing in some of what Fangio said, here are the 5 biggest takeaways from their pressers.
1) It Sounds Like They Want Von Miller Back - At least that's the sense you get based on Paton's comments about the Super Bowl 50 MVP. "We want to bring Von back and we’re still working through that," Paton said. "I don’t want to get into everything, but we want to bring him back. Obviously, the legal process and what he’s going through, it’s a serious situation. I don’t know all of the details, but we respect what’s going on. We do want Von back." Paton did acknowledge they were monitoring the legal matter that currently sits with the District Attorney in the Colorado 18th Judicial District, and while that may be a factor in what they ultimately decide with the franchise's all-time sack leader, it won't be the only factor. Miller is set to make $18.5 Million this season and count $22.5 against the salary cap. Most believe he won't play for that number, the question is will he be asked to take a pay cut or some sort of restructure, will the team extend Miller on a new multi-year deal, or will they release him by the start of the new league year, Mar. 17?
2) Justin Simmons will be a Bronco for a long time - This seems inevitable based on comments Paton made when he first took the job and what he said again Thursday. The Broncos can place the Franchise Tag on Simmons by March 9th to give them an exclusive window to negotiate until July 15th, but it doesn't appear it will take that long to get the long term deal the Pro Bowler has been seeking done. "Justin is one of our core guys, Paton said. "Our goal since I got here is to sign him to a long-term deal. We have had discussions with his agent. I don’t know if we’ll get a deal done or not, but that’s our goal. He’s the type of guy we want to extend." Signing Simmons has obvious benefits on the field, where he's turned into one of the league's best safeties, making his first Pro Bowl in 2020, and earning 2nd Team All-Pro honors in 2019. Simmons has been an iron man as well, playing every defensive snap of the last 3 seasons. That's 3,137 consecutive plays if you're keeping score at home. Although the deal isn't done yet, it wouldn't be surprising to see it finished in the next few weeks.
3) Shelby Harris is high on their to-do list - Fangio praised Harris all year long, and his absence in the middle of the season was felt up front. The Head Coach also mentioned how much he wanted Harris back in his end of the year presser. Talking with football people in the building and really across the league, they'll tell you Harris is a great fit for Fangio's defense, and his versatility has been on display over the past 2 years. Paton's comments about Harris were perhaps as anything he said about any player, "Shelby is a priority in free agency. We’d love to have Shelby back. 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."
4) Drew Lock is likely the starting Broncos QB (for now) - Paton wouldn't talk about Deshan Watson specifically, because he can't but he reiterated the claim he made when he was first introduced saying, "I can’t discuss other players that are under contract. I appreciate the question. I’ve said before, we’re going to be aggressive and we’re going to be in every deal. It doesn’t mean we’re going to make that deal but we’re going to look into everything whether it is a quarterback or a defensive lineman. Anything that helps our football team we’re going to pursue."
As for Lock specifically, here was Paton's break down after his film study 3rd year signal-caller, "I did a deep drive on Drew. Like I said in my [introductory] press conference, [he’s] very talented. He was inconsistent at times and has a lot to work on, but I’ve spoken with Drew. I see him every day. He’s here early and he’s working. He really wants to be great. We’re always going to try and bring in competition to every position, the quarterback as well. I like the trek that Drew is on. I haven’t seen Drew live on the field. I’ve just seen the tape. There is so much that goes into that when evaluating a quarterback. I like to see them live. You’d like to see them in critical situations. You like to see the accuracy. How is he with his teammates? What is the leadership like? Again, I can’t give you three things. There is so much involved in evaluating quarterbacks. I look forward to evaluating Drew further and in person. He does have all of the traits you look for in a quarterback."
And Fangio continued to talk about Lock's potential amidst the Broncos being constantly mentioned to be in the mix for every potentially available QB, "I’m confident that Drew’s going to continue to improve," Fangio said. "Drew has had a great offseason up to this point. There’s not a lot you can do, but he’s working hard on his own and coming over here and getting workouts. I know he’s doing a lot at home by himself and watching video by himself. He’s got a good setup over there. He’s doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March. I feel like he’ll continue to improve. As it relates to the quarterback carousel that everybody’s talking about going around the league, we’ll see how it turns out. Right now, it’s just a lot of rumors and innuendoes and everybody proposing this and that. I really don’t know what’s going to happen with some of the names that are being bandied about out there."
5) They plan on tendering Restricted Free Agents Phillip Lindsay, Tim Patrick & Alexander Johnson - As I said in December several times on KOA and on "The Broncos Daily Podcast" I expect the Broncos to put 2nd round tenders on their 3 restricted free agents. Paton was less definitive, but clearly wants all 3 players back. "We’re still working through Phillip," he said. Phillip is a good player and very passionate. He had some injuries last year and he brings energy and juice. He’s a restricted free agent and we do plan on tendering him. I’m not sure at what level but we want Phillip here." Paton's sentiments were similar on Patrick and Johnson, "We’re going to tender both of those players. I’m not sure at what level. Again, two good football players that we look forward to being here in the future."
This is kind of the calm before the storm. The window for "legal tampering" when teams can start talking to players opens Monday March 15, and teams can sign players beginning at 2:00 PM Mountain Time on St. Patrick's Day. It is worth noting, Denver can reach and sign contracts at any time with the players that are already on their roster.
Watch: General Manager George Paton's Press Conference
Watch: Head Coach Vic Fangio's Press Conference