A pro-Drew Lock general manager or one who will arrive with another plan?
One who wants Von Miller to end his career with the Broncos or wants to create salary-cap space?
One who sees Justin Simmons as a linchpin to Vic Fangio’s defense or feels he isn’t worth $14 million per year?
Those are just three of the questions candidates should be thinking about and asking the Broncos’ brain-trust.
In addition to Chicago Bears executive Champ Kelly, four other candidates have emerged as candidates for the Broncos’ general manager opening. They are: Broncos scouting director Brian Stark, Minnesota Vikings vice president player personnel/assistant general manager George Paton, New Orleans Saints vice president/assistant general manager/personnel Terry Fontenot and New England Patriots assistant player personnel director Dave Ziegler, according to league sources.
The Broncos, Jacksonville, Carolina, Washington, Detroit and Atlanta have general manager openings so the race is on to interview the desired candidates and offer the job before a rival team swoops in.
One league source, asked who would be the favorite among the aforementioned candidates, put Paton at the top of the list.
“But he probably wouldn’t take it,” the source said.
Indeed, Paton has been very selective through the years. In the past decade, he has turned down interview opportunities with the New York Jets (twice), Chicago, Miami and Kansas City. He interviewed with Indianapolis and San Francisco in 2017 and Cleveland last year.
Paton, whose nephew, Rob, is a Broncos’ scout, has been with the Vikings for 14 years. He previously worked for Chicago and Miami. Paton was in the Vikings’ front office when current Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was a Minnesota assistant in 2016-17.
Fontenot has been with the Saints for 16 years, rising from pro scout to his current post, which includes running the team’s pro scouting efforts.
The Jaguars, Falcons and Lions also put in requests to interview Fontenot.
Like Kelly, Ziegler has experience working for the Broncos (three years). Ziegler just completed his eighth season in the Patriots’ scouting department and his first as assistant director of player personnel. He served four years as director of pro personnel and three as director of pro scouting.
Stark has been with the Broncos for eight years, including the last four running the college scouting department. He was a scout for the team from 2012-15. Prior to the Broncos, Stark coached collegiately at Colorado, Washington, San Diego State and Yale.
Once a new general manager is appointed, he must answer the key questions about Lock, Miller and Simmons.
Lock was 4-9 in his first full year as the starter and had 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Broncos have the ninth pick in April’s draft.
Miller missed the entire season with an ankle injury and has a cap number of $22.125 million. The new general manager can create $13.875 million in cap space if Miller is moved on.
Some of that money could be allocated to Simmons, who is a free agent for the second consecutive offseason. He played 2020 on the franchise tag and intercepted a team-high five passes.
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