George Paton has not even been on the job for a full offseason yet, and it seems the NFL is already starting to take notice. The GM retained core defensive pieces in Justin Simmons and Shelby Harris, adding the Denver Broncos' No. 1 cornerback target in Ronald Darby for a deal that looks like a bargain in comparison to the other contracts the big-named players at the position got this offseason, and moving on from Kareem Jackson only to bring him back while saving $5 million in the process.
Paton may be in his first year on the job, but thanks to his years working for the Minnesota Vikings as second fiddle to GM Rick Spielman, is anything but inexperienced. Paton’s moves (outside of jettisoning Phillip Lindsay) have been lauded by fans and the media alike, but none received the praise as the acquisition of ex-Chicago Bears boundary cornerback Kyle Fuller.
After a long period of 'will they, won’t they' waiting on the Bears to either trade or cut Fuller, Chicago finally dropped the former All-Pro cornerback who was subsequently scooped up by Denver approximately 34 minutes after his official release. Other teams, such as the Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis Colts, were also interested in signing Fuller, but with his age and his camaraderie with head coach Vic Fangio, it was a perfect match for both sides that did not require any overthinking.
NFL.com’s Adam Schein was impressed by the Fuller move, ranking it as the sixth-best move made so far by any NFL team so far this offseason. Schein raved about Denver's move to land the talented player at one of the most valuable positions in football.
Chicago dumped Fuller because of his cap number, and he was on the street for what felt like 30 seconds. Not surprising. The 29-year-old is still an excellent corner. And who scooped him up? Former Chicago defensive mastermind Vic Fangio, something that did NOT go unnoticed by Bears fans. Fuller led the league with seven picks and earned first-team All-Pro honors under Fangio in 2018. This is sheer perfection.
If (when) Denver improves the quarterback position, this team might just have something. The Broncos haven't made the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50. A five-year postseason drought is too long for such a proud franchise.
Another reason the signing of Fuller should be praised for Denver specifically? With the oft-injured Bryce Callahan and Darby, bringing in a true iron man in Fuller who has logged over 4,100 snaps over the last four years and has started 94-of-96 possible NFL games offers some stability to Denver's secondary. The trio together could be special, but Fuller’s dependability raises the floor of the room.
The Broncos aren’t done yet and while free agency is fun, Paton himself would tell you the most important offseason event is still over a month away in the NFL draft. Paton has set up the Broncos to go into the draft with the freedom to go a multitude of directions.
Will Paton stay on a hot streak from free agency to the draft? Time will tell but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone unimpressed by Paton’s first offseason in Denver thanks in large part to the Broncos hauling in cornerback Fuller, while re-signing Simmons and Harris, biting the bullet to exercise Von Miller's contract and getting Jackson back in the fold.
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