ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tough decisions await new Broncos General Manager George Paton as he begins his tenure.
He must decide whether Drew Lock will be under center in 2021. He must choose whether Justin Simmons and Von Miller will return to Denver. And he must focus in on how to use the ninth-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
First, though, he must meet with his staff to create the plan the Broncos will soon put into action.
"I think all those tough decisions start when I can meet with the coaches and the scouting staff, and that's where you get your plan for the offseason," Paton said Tuesday. "That's when it starts. I haven't been with the coaches yet. I haven't been with the scouts yet, so until you have your meetings and get your plan for the offseason and develop your needs and how we're going to fill them through draft or free agency, that's when it all starts. When we can all get together and we can talk and have player evaluations, that's when it all starts."
For the time being, Paton said he expects the scouting staff to remain intact.
"Eventually I will be hiring a right-hand man, and it is my call 100 percent," Paton said. "I'll talk to John [Elway], I'll talk to Joe [Ellis] and Vic [Fangio] and make sure he's a really good fit, but yes. I don't know the timetable of that. I'm not in a big hurry. I really want to evaluate the staff here. I've heard great things about the college and pro staff, so I want to see their process. I want to get to know the guys and go through a scouting season with them before really making any decisions."
This evaluation period will be different than any other, as the 2021 NFL Combine has been altered and will not be held in its traditional format. Instead of teams gathering in Indianapolis, college programs will instead hold more prominent pro days for NFL scouts.
"This year obviously we're not going to have a Combine, but the good thing is it's a level playing field and 31 other teams are going through the same thing," Paton said. "As I talk to our scouts, how are we going to maintain an edge over the rest of the league? We're going to need better background. How are we going to cover the workouts if they have them? I just think we need to determine how we're going to separate ourselves from the other 31 teams."
Take an exclusive look at new Broncos GM George Paton as he settled in at UCHealth Training Center, as he was introduced to Denver media on Tuesday.
Fangio said he believes last year's experience should help minimize the difficulty of another remote offseason.
"We're just going to have to do a good job of digging, like George said," Fangio said. "The coaches are going to have to chip in to dig, the scouts are going to have to dig. We're going to have to use anything and anybody to help us get the necessary information we need on these players in the draft. In regard to last year, obviously when COVID hit last year and things had to be done virtually, it was new for a lot of us. Now it's not going to be new. We're going to be more well versed in it, and it should be more of a smooth process if we have to go that route again. I think we'll all be better for it."
Paton said he's unsure whether he will attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, which is traditionally another opportunity for teams to scout players.
"I'm still up in the air," Paton said. "I'm just trying to see how I get through this week. I'm going to meet with the college scouting department and the pro scouting department and then make a decision from there."
As the staff prepares for the draft, it will also maintain a focus on free agency. Simmons is poised to enter unrestricted free agency if the team does not use the franchise tag or extend him, and the Broncos must also make a decision on Miller's team option that would keep him in Denver for 2021.
"George is going to do his work on both of those situations," Elway said. "He has to get acclimated to the new position and the new job and get to know everybody. There's a lot of different things that are going to go on. Von and Justin are two of the bigger things he's going to have to address. When I moved up, I planned on being a sounding board for him, and any information I can give him to help him make a better decision, I'm going to do. That's kind of my role and the role I'm looking forward to, especially with knowing everybody in the building and the team in order to help George and support him in any way I can."
Paton said the Broncos have "some young pieces in place" and "a healthy [salary] cap," which should give him some direction as he begins to decide which players the Broncos should target to re-sign or acquire in free agency or the draft.
In the early days, though, Paton is eager to get to work in settling into his new role.
"Together we'll work every single day to make Broncos Country proud," Paton said. "… I can't wait to get started. I fully embrace this challenge and this opportunity."