George Paton’s “A+ offseason” for the Broncos might need to be re-graded
George Paton had an A+ offseason. The new Broncos general manager hits it out of the park in his first offseason at the helm.
These were the narratives during the summer. As the Broncos went through free agency and the draft, their GM was receiving high marks for his moves.
Six weeks into the season, it might be time to re-evaluate those grades. At this point, his moves aren’t looking nearly as good.
In free agency, Paton addressed the team’s secondary. Namely, he wanted to upgrade at cornerback, where Denver was really thin at the end of the 2020 season.
He signed Ronald Darby to a three-year, $30 million deal and inked Kyle Fuller to a one-year, $9.5 million contract. Both players have been disappointments.
Darby, who had a reputation for being oft-injured during his time in Washington, was sidelined in Week 1. He returned on Sunday, only to get beat multiple times on deep passes from Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs.
Fuller has fallen out favor with the coaching staff. After getting burned multiple times last week in Pittsburgh, the veteran only played two snaps against the Raiders.
When Darby and Fuller haven’t been on the field, they’ve been replaced by Pat Surtain, the cornerback Paton used the No. 9 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on. Surtain has been up and down, getting beat for a TD in the Giants game and committing a costly penalty against the Raiders, but he did have an interception against the Jaguars.
Elsewhere in the secondary, Justin Simmons is also struggling. In each of the last three games, the safety has been part of a blown coverage that’s resulted in a long touchdown for the opposition. That’s certainly not the level of play Paton had in mind when he made Simmons the highest-paid safety, at the time, in the NFL during the summer.
But it’s not just on the backend where the Broncos are struggling. Upfront, Denver is also having issues. In particular, they aren’t getting much from their starting defensive line.
While some blame falls on Dre’Mont Jones and Mike Purcell, they aren’t the high-priced players being counted on. That’s Shelby Harris, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract in the offseason.
Through six games, the defensive end has nine tackles, 10 assists and one sack. That puts him on pace for roughly 50 tackles and less than three sacks on the season. That’s just not good enough.
Speaking of which, the most-expensive player on the roster also isn’t delivering. Von Miller has 4.5 sacks on the season, but four of those came in the first three games. He’s been virtually non-existent in loses to the Ravens, Steelers and Raiders.
That’s not what the Broncos need from a player who counts $22.25 million against the salary cap. That’s not what Paton had in mind when he decided to pick up the Super Bowl MVP’s option for the 2021 season.
It’s not just the Broncos defense that is struggling, however. Their offense has also been inconsistent.
On that side of the ball, Paton’s big addition was at the most-important position in all of sports. He traded for Teddy Bridgewater and then allowed the coaches to pick the veteran over Drew Lock at the end of their training camp quarterback competition.
Bridgewater was fine during the Broncos first three games, but he’s really struggled once the competition has ramped up. On Sunday, he had his worst day yet, throwing three interceptions and fumbling against the Raiders.
Meanwhile, the positions Paton failed to address remain issues. He could’ve drafted a quarterback instead of Surtain, but passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones, choosing instead to go with a veteran at that position. He could’ve drafted Rashawn Slater to address the revolving door at right tackle, but he decided to go with Bobby Massie as a stop-gap answer. And he could’ve picked Micah Parsons, adding a middle linebacker with the skill set to cover tight ends and running backs, but he chose to stick with Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell, two players who struggled before being lost for the season with torn pectorals.
All in all, it adds up to a lot of disappointment. Players aren’t living up to their expectations.
That’s on them. It’s on the coaches. And it’s on the general manager who decided to draft or sign them.