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Broncos Notebook: GM George Paton details Denver's 'strategic' approach to free agency

INDIANAPOLIS — Less than two weeks before the start of the NFL's legal tampering period, Broncos General Manager George Paton reaffirmed his earlier sentiment that the Broncos would take a measured approach in free agency.

"We're going to be strategic," Paton said Tuesday at the 2024 NFL Combine. "We're not going to be as aggressive as last year. We have flexibility, but we're going to just be more measured and try to fill specific positions and specific needs throughout the team. I feel like we'll have the flexibility to do that, but we can't do that every year and be aggressive like we were last year."

Paton added the recently announced salary cap bump — which will increase to $255.4 million — does create a bit of additional flexibility and could increase the Broncos' ability to add in free agency.

"It impacts us as it just provides more flexibility than we thought we had," Paton said. "We felt like we were going to be able to do what we needed to do, and then we got the spike. Now maybe we can do more or plan more for the future. So it just provides us and really all the teams with more flexibility moving forward."

As the Broncos consider whether to add external free agents, they'll also evaluate if they will be able to retain their own impending free agents.

Asked specifically about center Lloyd Cushenberry III — a 57-game starter over the last four years — Paton said he would "love to sign him" to a new contract in Denver.

"We really value Lloyd and thought he had one of his best seasons," Paton said. "We'd love to have Lloyd back, but then what's behind Lloyd? We feel good about [Luke] Wattenberg. We feel really good about [Alex] Forsyth. We feel like there's depth. That doesn't mean we're not going to sign Lloyd. We'd love to sign him, but we do feel like that's a position we do have the depth and one of those guys could be a starter eventually."

Free agency will officially begin on Wednesday, March 13 at 2 p.m. MT.


Rookie third-round pick Drew Sanders moved to edge rusher at times during the 2023 season, and Paton said it's still under discussion where the Arkansas product will play in 2024 and beyond.

"It's a work in progress," Paton said. "We thought he finished well on the edge. We're going sit down with Drew and the coaches, and we've had those meetings. I think he'll probably end up on the edge, but he has the flexibility. He's so talented. It's hard. It's kind of like Baron Browning. We interviewed a kid last night from Notre Dame who's played inside and outside. It's a blessing and sometimes it's a curse because he can't get settled in at one position. Once we left Drew at outside, he finished strong, and so we feel good about Drew moving forward."

Sanders recorded 24 tackles, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery as he appeared in all 17 games in 2023. He played 64 percent of the Broncos' special teams snaps and 23 percent of Denver's defensive plays.


While the Broncos' defensive performance improved over the course of the season, Paton said he still believes the Broncos must be better up front.

"We feel like we need to be better in the run, and we need to stop the run better," Paton said. "We were inconsistent, a lot of things we did.  Week 1 through [Week] 6 … we were the worst defense in the league, and then the final 11 [games], we were [in the] top 10 [or] top five in a lot of metrics, so really [we] just [need to] be more consistent. I think we need to get better inside stopping the run. Just be more disciplined at times. You saw that early, you saw that a little late with some of the busted coverages."

Yet while Paton said there's always a place to add talent, he also believes in the group the Broncos have assembled.

"You can always use help in the secondary," Paton said, "but I feel good about the young core on defense, and we will just continue to add depth."

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