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ENGLEWOOD, CO - MARCH 18: General Manager of the Denver Broncos George Paton answers media questions after introducing Broncos cornerback Ronald Darby and Broncos running back Mike Boone. The Denver Broncos hosted a free agency press conference at UCHealth Training Center"u2019s Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse on Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Photo by Eric Lutzens/The Denver Post)
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George Paton has already given Broncos Country reasons to be worried

(Photo by Eric Lutzens/The Denver Post)

Throughout the NFL Draft, questions about the Broncos selections were generally met with some version of the same rebuttal. One way or another, Denver’s defenders tried to remind everyone that George Paton is a smart guy.

Everyone said the same version of the same thing. The team’s new general manager deserved the benefit of the doubt. His track record as the No. 2 man in Minnesota proves that he knows what he’s doing. The way that he carries himself in press conferences shows his intelligence.

All of it added up to one conclusion: There’s no reason to doubt King George.

Really? None?

Forget the fact that he passed on Justin Fields with the ninth-overall pick, taking a cornerback instead of a quarterback. Overlook the fact that he traded up in round two to take a running back when a middle linebacker could’ve plugged a gaping hole, and perhaps cover Travis Kelce for a change. And nevermind that he took a guy from Wisconsin-Whitewater in the third round, adding depth with a premium pick.

Those decisions all came on the heels of plenty of other head-scratchers. The offseason has already been littered with them.

Paton decided to let Von Miller play out the final year of his contract, paying the pass rusher $18 million in 2021, with a cap hit of more than $22 million. That’s a lot of dough for a guy who had 8.0 sacks in ’19 and didn’t play a snap in ’20. Restructuring the former Super MVP’s deal would’ve made a lot more sense.

The GM also decided to give Shelby Harris a three-year, $27-million deal. This comes a year after the defensive lineman received very little interest on the free-agent market, forcing him to sign a one-year, $3-million deal with Denver in 2020. After a down season, in a year when the salary cap dropped, Paton believed the defensive end’s value increased nine-fold?

He also forked over a lot of money to Ronald Darby. The Broncos signed the cornerback to a three-year, $30 million deal early in free agency. That’s a lot of money for a player who didn’t have a single interception in 2020.

Paton also decided to make Justin Simmons the highest-paid safety in the NFL, something his predecessor was unwilling to do. John Elway didn’t see Simmons as a game changer like Budda Baker, Eddie Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu. Paton apparently does.

He also has a different opinion of the Broncos coaching staff than most people.

Despite being 12-20 during his two seasons in Denver, with plenty of embarrassing losses along the way, Vic Fangio will be back in 2021. So will Pat Shurmur, even though the offensive coordinator overseeing the regression of Drew Lock, and Tom McMahon, regardless of the fact that the Broncos special teams have been a disaster under his leadership.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Paton also decided to bring in Teddy Bridgewater. A year after signing the journeyman QB to a three-year, $63-million deal, the Panthers were ready to move on. So much so that they’re paying $7 million in 2021 for Bridgewater to not play for them, choosing to go with Sam Darnold instead.

Are all of these decisions mistakes? Of course not. Some may prove to be shrewd moves.

But they are questionable. They should raise eyebrows.

So stop with the notion that George Paton can’t be questioned. That’s a mindset for suckers.

Is he a good general manager? The answer should be no until he proves that it’s yes, not the other way around.

That’s called having high standards. That’s called being cautiously optimistic. That’s called pragmatism.

And it’s how Broncos Country should think. Leave the rainbows and unicorns for children’s books.

The NFL is a results-oriented business. And right now, George Paton should be working on credit, with some nervous lenders looking in.