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George Paton is building the Broncos like a modern-day Super Bowl contender

Zac Stevens Avatar
March 15, 2022

The saying “defense wins championships” brought the Lombardi Trophy back to the Mile High City after a magical 2015 season.

That saying, however, has since haunted the Broncos ever since.

After getting blown out in Super Bowl 48—by current Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson—with an offensive minded team, John Elway completely flipped the script on the way he went about building his teams in Denver.

In 2014 and 2015, Elway and the Broncos poured resource after resource on the defensive side of the ball. That resource rich defense paid off, earning Elway and the Broncos their third world championship in Feb. 2016.

Then Elway tried that formula again in 2016.

And again in 2017.

And again in 2018.

And again in 2019.

And again in 2020.

The same results followed year after year as the Broncos became the first team in NFL history to miss the playoffs five-straight years after winning the Super Bowl. Entering 2022, only the Jets have a longer playoff drought than Denver. If that wasn’t enough, the Broncos are currently on a stretch of five-straight losing seasons.

But the mindset and approach is finally changing in the Mile High City.

“Defense wins championships” is no longer the unofficial motto of the Denver Broncos. George Paton quietly began saying goodbye to that his first year on the job in 2021 and is completely moving away from it as he builds Denver’s roster for the 2022 season.

In 2019 and 2020, Elway’s last two seasons as general manager, the Broncos had the NFL’s highest-paid defense, spending an average of 50 percent of their cap space on that side of the ball. Comparatively, in 2019, Denver only spent 26 percent of their cap on their offense and in 2020 only spent 25 percent of their cap on that side of the ball.

For those two years, the Broncos had roughly half of the investment on their offense as they did their defense. No wonder Denver had a poor offense.

In Paton’s first year as the GM, he tightened the gap between the two sides, but still spent 38 percent of the cap on defense and only 34 percent on offense.

Despite two major defensive signings in the first 24 hours of free agency—D.J. Reed for $10 million per year and Randy Gregory for $14 million per year—the Broncos are finally going to invest more in the offensive side of the ball than the defensive side.

In an era where high-flying offenses have taken off more than ever, the Broncos are finally joining the new era of NFL football.

Welcome.

Entering Tuesday, the Broncos have committed $97 million in cap space to the offensive side of the ball—over 44 percent of the cap—while only spending $69.5 million—or 32 percent of the cap—to the defensive side of the ball.

The defensive investment will increase with Gregory, Jones and Josey Jewell’s cap hits, but the defense will still fall short of the $97 million invested on the offensive side.

A major reason to this philosophical and financial change in Denver is, of course, the arrival of Russell Wilson.

In 2019, the Broncos’ committed $6.8 million to their quarterback room. That was the fifth-smallest commitment in the NFL. In 2020 and 2021, it was more of the same as Denver only invested $4 million and $7 million, respectively, to the most important position in sports. Both of those were a bottom-four investment in the entire league.

Wilson, however, carries a significant investment with his elite play. In 2022, he’ll count $24 million against Denver’s cap, making the Broncos’ commitment to their QBs nearly in the top 10 in the NFL.

Since Manning retired, the Broncos haven’t invested in their quarterbacks and, unsurprisingly, below average results have followed.

That’s not the case in 2022.

The investment is finally there at the most important position in sports. For the first time since Peyton was in town, it’s reasonable to have lofty expectations from Denver’s QB.

Since Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and the No Fly Zone carried Denver to a Super Bowl victory, every other championship team—outside of the 2017 Eagles—has had elite play from the quarterback position and the offensive side of the ball.

In today’s NFL, great quarterback play and explosive offenses are what win championships more times than not.

The Denver Broncos, led by George Paton, are finally being built like a modern-day Super Bowl contender.

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