The Denver Broncos have a new general manager in George Paton, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. He started his career with the Vikings in 2007 as a director of player personnel but over the last several seasons (2015-20), Paton worked as the assistant general manager as well. He was a big part of what the Vikings put together for a decade plus, and he was the trusted ally of Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.
On Thursday, Spielman talked to the media and shared how enthusiastic he is about his former right-hand man getting this opportunity with the Broncos.
“I’m excited for him because now, although when we talked and put our plan together, he always had a big influence and a big input on what we’ve done and how we did things, and now he’s got a chance to run the show there and I’m anxious to see what he puts in place and some of the ideas that he may have on how to move forward,” Spielman said.
It’s logical to assume that Paton will be looking at some of the players he helped the Vikings get who are hitting free agency this year. It’s human nature to want to work with people you are familiar with and the Vikings have a few interesting players who will be available this offseason.
So, who are the free agents with the Vikings that could be on the Broncos radar? Let’s take a look.
Mike Boone, RB, unrestricted free agent
The Broncos may have an opening in the running back room depending on what happens with fan favorite Phillip Lindsay. We’ll see what tender the Broncos give to Lindsay who is a restricted free agent, but there’s a good chance that another team signs for the former 1,000-yard rusher away. That means a guy like Boone could be an option as a reserve back behind starter Melvin Gordon. Boone is a compact runner who can pick up tough yards in between the tackles, but he also provides some big-play ability on perimeter runs.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, restricted free agent
Ifeadi Odenigbo has compiled 10.5 sacks during the last two seasons, and NFL teams are always on the lookout for pass-rushers. He played twice as many snaps in 2020 as he did in 2019, but Odenigbo only had 3.5 sacks after having 7.0 sacks the previous year. Odenigbo is a restricted free agent, so we’ll have to see what the Vikings tender him before getting too excited. He’s known as a hard worker and last year before the season Football Outsiders called Odenigbo the No. 1 Young Breakout Player in the league. Odenigbo failed to meet expectations, but that potential is still there. If the price is right, then perhaps the Broncos would be interested.
Jaleel Johnson, NT, unrestricted free agent
We could see the Broncos make a move for another big man in the middle of the defensive line at the nose tackle position. Even though they signed Mike Purcell to a new contract last year, the Broncos might want some depth at the position. That’s where Jaleel Johnson could be an option in free agency. A former reserve player with the Vikings, Johnson started 16 games for the Vikings in 2020. Johnson, a former high school wrestler, understands leverage and knows how to position his body to win in the trenches.
Rashod Hill, RT, unrestricted free agent
There are a few free agent offensive linemen for the Vikings who I feel the Broncos could be looking at this offseason. Guard/center Brett Jones and left tackle/guard Dakota Dozier could be depth options for the Broncos, but I think Rashod Hill could be a target the Broncos go after. Hill has been a swing tackle for the Vikings for some time, but he could be looking for a larger role. He’s reliable enough to trust as a reserve and Hill might win a competition in training camp. If Ja’Wuan James is banged up again, then perhaps a guy like Hill could take over at right tackle and get the starting job he’s been looking for.
Anthony Harris, FS, unrestricted free agent
Like Broncos free safety Justin Simmons, Anthony Harris played the 2020 on the franchise tag. The buzz is that Harris will get something worked out with the Vikings, and they want to find a way to make something happen. They’ll have the first crack at him as the Vikings can negotiate with Harris before anyone else just like the Broncos can do that with Simmons. I believe Simmons gets a larger contract, and if his price tag is too rich for the Broncos (and if Harris is available) then we could see Paton look to his former top-tier safety.
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