ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Von Miller may be working his way back from a season-ending ankle injury he suffered last year, but General Manager George Paton maintained high expectations for the star pass-rusher in 2021.
"What he's brought since he's been here," Paton said Thursday when asked what he expects from the soon-to-be 32-year-old Miller in 2021. "He can rush the passer. The tape I watched, he still had the juice before he got injured. Pass rushers are a premium, and he's special. He's a special pass rusher. You look at some of the great pass rushers of all time, they're rushing the passer well into their 30s. Von's been working, and I think he's going to have a Pro Bowl-type season."
Miller has made the league's all-star game eight times in his career, and he'll aim to make the cut again in 2021.
The Broncos ensured he would be in Denver for his comeback campaign when they exercised his team option earlier this week.
"Von's been a priority," Paton said. "We wanted Von here since I was here. We were going to try to do that any way we could. Had good conversations with Joby Branion, his agent, and I've spoken with Von. We ended up just exercising the option."
Paton said the team's decision to exercise the option was made independently of the market for pass rushers that developed in the early part of free agency.
"We wanted Von Miller," Paton said. "We wanted Von to be a Bronco."
WHO'S UNDER CENTER?
Despite rampant offseason speculation about the Broncos' plans to be aggressive at the quarterback position, the Broncos have yet to add competition for Drew Lock.
Paton assured the media that the Broncos are "monitoring" the market and still would like to add competition at some point.
"We've evaluated all the quarterbacks," Paton said. "We like Drew Lock. We have a plan in place. There's free agency, there's a draft, there's trades. There's a lot of ways to acquire a quarterback. Fortunately, we have a quarterback here and we have a nice quarterback room. We do want to bring in competition. We're not going to force it. We're monitoring the market right now."
With several other needs met, the Broncos could potentially add that competition through the draft with the ninth-overall pick. Paton said the pick may be used on a quarterback and that he will attend Pro Days in the coming weeks for a variety of players, "but definitely quarterback."
BUILDING A DEFENSE
In the past few days, the Broncos picked up Miller's option, re-signed Shelby Harris and added Ronald Darby. Paton, though, believes the Broncos still have work to do before their defense is finalized.
"It's a work in progress," Paton said. "We're not there yet. We have the rest of free agency [and] we have the draft to add good young players that fit our culture and fit the scheme. We have a ways to go. I'm really happy with the additions we have, but we have time. We're working the phones. When we go back [to the main building], I'll be working the phone. It's a long process. I think by the time we get to the season, we'll feel good about this defense."
One of the Broncos' main defensive focuses will be to find a safety to pair with Justin Simmons, either through free agency or the draft. Denver did not exercise Kareem Jackson's team option on Tuesday, though he may still be a candidate to return to the Broncos.
"It's a priority, it definitely is," Paton said of the safety position. "But again, we have a long time. We have free agency — there's a lot of safeties on the market, including Kareem. And then we have the draft. And there's also the trade market. The good thing is we don't play a game for a while. We have a lot of time."
…. The Broncos on Thursday mutually agreed to part ways with running back Phillip Lindsay, and Paton said the team made the decision with Lindsay's best interest in mind.
"At the end of the day, we wanted to do right by Phillip," Paton said. "He's been a great player here, he's been great in the community. He's one of the more popular players for the Broncos the last couple years. We wanted to let Phillip hit the market and maximize his value. That's what we did. He deserved that."
…. Asked about where contract negotiations with safety Justin Simmons stand, Paton said the team is "making progress" but he's unsure when a deal could come.