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Here's what we learned from George Paton and Vic Fangio at their Broncos press conferences

Andrew Mason Avatar
March 5, 2021

Broncos coach Vic Fangio and general manager George Paton answered a fusillade of quick-hit questions from Denver-area media on a Zoom conference Thursday afternoon.

Beyond the still-percolating quarterback situation — which got a little extra fuel on the fire with Paton’s assertion that the Broncos were “open to picking any position” at No. 9 in what appears to be a QB-rich first round — here are some key takeaways from the session.


There are plenty of variables at play.

First, there is the $7 million option Miller is due at the start of the league year. Then there is the ongoing investigation that was passed from the Parker Police Department to the district attorney of the 18th Judicial District.”

“We want to bring Von back and we’re still working through that,” Paton said. “… Obviously, the legal process and what he’s going through, it’s a serious situation. I don’t know all of the details, but we respect what’s going on.

“We do want Von back.”

Paton said that the team would “let [the investigation] play out before offering any comment on that, and how it might affect negotiations.

Miller’s current salary-cap figure for 2021 is $22.125 million. That would be the eighth-highest 2021 cap amount for any non-quarterback in the NFL, per the data compiled by OvertheCap.com.


A second franchise tag remains in play; the deadline for that is March 9. But Paton said that a “goal” is to get Simmons signed to a multi-year contract.

“Justin is one of our core guys,” Paton said. “… We have had discussions with his agent. I don’t know if we’ll get a deal done or not, but that’s our goal. He’s the type of guy we want to extend.”

A second consecutive franchise tag would pay Simmons $13.75 million if he and the Broncos could not work out a long-term deal. There is precedence for a second tag leading to a multi-year contract; that happened with Dallas and Demarcus Lawrence in 2019. He signed five-year contract 32 days after the Cowboys tagged him for a second consecutive year.

Earlier this week, Simmons expressed optimism about his future in Denver when he joined Sirius XM NFL Radio for an on-air appearance.

“It seems like Denver wants me back and I want to be there,” Simmons said.

A bigger question could revolve around Kareem Jackson. Not picking up his option for 2021 could save the Broncos $10 million under the salary cap.

Paton said that the Simmons and Jackson situations are “independent of each other.”

“We would like Kareem back. He’s a good football player and a good leader,” Paton said. “We’ll see if we can do that.”


Paton said that he had a “good discussion” with James and his agent, Bill Johnson.

James’ message? He’s ready to return after opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.

“He’s ready to go,” Paton said. “He said he missed football. He’s looking forward to getting here and working and being with his teammates. I’m looking forward to meeting him and seeing him play next year.”

Fangio also said that he had spoken “a couple of times” with James, and that he expected him to return to the Denver area to work out individually at Broncos headquarters before the end of this month.

“He definitely is planning on coming back and being part of the team moving forward,” Fangio said. “… We’re counting and anticipating him being a part of our team next year.”


By some distance, cornerback is the most pressing need on the roster in the wake of last month’s release of A.J. Bouye.

Bryce Callahan is expected back after missing the final five games of the regular season due to a foot injury. While Fangio felt Callahan was “probably our best corner” in 2020, he also missed six games last year and has never played more than 13 games in a regular season. Michael Ojemudia showed improvement last year, but fellow 2020 rookie Essang Bassey is coming off of a torn ACL suffered in Week 14 of last year.

So, the Broncos are in the cornerback market.

“There’s some good players available at corner in free agency, and obviously, there’s some in the draft,” Fangio said. “We hope to at some point — whether it be in free agency or in the draft — to add a player to that position for us because we need to.”

The question then becomes a matter of when. Do the Broncos wait for the draft, thus boxing themselves into a cornerback in Round 1? Or do they add at least one in free agency, giving themselves options?

And what type of cornerback will they add? There isn’t a template, Fangio noted.

“Corners come in all shapes, sizes and styles,” he said. “I think if you pigeonhole yourself into only wanting a certain type of corner, whether it be size, certain speed, etc., you’re going to end up finding yourself without enough corners that can play in the NFL.”

And in Fangio’s mind, there is a cornerback shortage, anyway.

“Because you play so much nickel, the math will tell you there’s 96 starting corners in the NFL. I don’t think there’s enough to go around for the entire league. If you pigeonhole yourself into a certain prototype or characteristic that you want, you won’t have enough time to find them in time. We’re looking for good players at corner, realizing that they come in all shapes and sizes.”

Fangio cited the success of Callahan — who stands 5-foot-9 — as a justification for not getting too hung up on size.

“I just like corners that can play a bit,” Fangio said.


Paton confirmed that the Broncos would give restricted free-agent tenders to running back Phillip Lindsay, inside linebacker Alexander Johnson and wide receiver Tim Patrick, although he said he was “not sure” what tender level the team would use on each member of the trio.

The second-round tender is projected to be at $3.384 million, per OvertheCap.com. If the team opts for the original-round tender — which for undrafted players would mean the Broncos have only the right of first refusal — then the tender would be over $1 million below the second-round figure, at $2.133 million.

In regards to Lindsay, Paton said the team was “still working through” his situation.

“Phillip is a good player and very passionate. He had some injuries last year and he brings energy and juice,” Paton said. “He’s a restricted free agent and we do plan on tendering him. I’m not sure at what level, but we want Phillip here.”


Paton said that he spoke with Harris’ agent, Brian Williams, about a new contract for the pending unrestricted free agent.

“We’d love to have Shelby back. He’s a really good football player and a good person,” Paton said. “I know Vic’s spoken with him. I’ve spoken with him early. He’s a guy we definitely want back.”

Last year, Harris tested the market but ended up returning to the Broncos on a one-year, $3.25-million deal. Even though Harris missed five games due to a knee problem and a bout with the novel coronavirus, that proved to be a bargain for Denver.

Last year, Harris had a sack or a pass deflection on 3.4 percent of his pass-rush snaps last season, according to the data compiled by Pro Football Focus. That rate of one sack or deflection every 29.7 pass-rush snaps was first among 136 defensive linemen with at least 100 pass-rush snaps. He also led the league in that statistic in 2019.


  • When Fangio was asked about his confidence in the defensive players on the roster to execute his scheme, he noted that the team would “hopefully have a good offseason and pick up a player or two or three through free agency and the draft.”
  • Paton was asked about whether the team would pick up Bradley Chubb’s fifth-year option and replied, “It’s only March. We’ll get into that,” latter adding that the team “obviously” wants Chubb around for the long haul. The fifth-year option deadline for 2018 draft picks is in May, just after the draft concludes.


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