ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – John Elway and the Denver Broncos wanted George Paton to be the team’s new general manager so much that Paton got a longer deal than Elway ever had in the same job.
Paton, who has spent the past 13 years with the Minnesota Vikings, has accepted a six-year deal to be the Broncos’ general manager, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Broncos announced Paton’s appointment Wednesday, but did not disclose terms.
Paton had spent most of Tuesday in Denver in the second interview for him with team officials and had returned to Minnesota Tuesday night.
OFFICIAL: We have agreed to enter into agreements with George Paton to become our new general manager.
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̵1; Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 13, 2021
Elway had promised to find the “best candidate, the best person” for the job. The Broncos also interviewed New Orleans Saints assistant general manager Terry Fontenot, Chicago Bears assistant player manager Champ Kelly, New England Patriots ‘Dave Ziegler and Broncos’ director of college scout Brian Stark.
“Early in this process, it became clear why George has been such a coveted GM candidate for so many years. He is a proven evaluator who knows every detail of leading football operations,” Elway said in a statement. “With his experience in all aspects of the job – college and the professional side, payroll, industries, working with the head coach and bringing the staff together – George is more than ready to succeed in this role. George has waited and worked for the right opportunity, which shows he is smart and serious about winning. We are excited to appoint George Paton as general manager of the Denver Broncos. “
Paton and Fontenot, who did their interview almost because the Saints are still in the playoffs, were interviewed every other Tuesday.
Elway, who has been the Broncos’ top decision-maker in football since 2011, announced Jan. 4 that he stepped down from day-to-day personal operations but would remain president of football operations at least through the final year of his current contract.
Elway also said he did not think the team’s current ownership between Pat Bowlen’s children would affect the Broncos’ ability to secure what he thought would be a top candidate. Paton’s six-year deal is likely to bridge any potential change in the team’s ownership in the coming years.
Paton has control over the team’s list, free agency and draft. The Broncos have missed the playoffs for five seasons in a row since the Super Bowl 50 victory and finished last season 5-11.
The team faces choice decisions about linebackers Von Miller and Kareem Jackson, and Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons is scheduled to be among the team’s unlimited free agents. A decision on the plan at quarterback is also among the front burner issues for the Broncos.
The team has one of the youngest playlists in the league and enough salary capacity to participate in the open market. In recent days, Elway and team president and CEO Joe Ellis each promised that the new general manager would have the “resources” to make improvements.
“In many ways, I feel like this team is a sleeping giant. For me, it’s the right place and the right time for this opportunity,” Paton said in a statement. “… Although it’s hard to leave the Vikings, the conditions I’ve had in Minnesota are lifelong.
Paton added: “… Developing and developing players is priority # 1. We will be aggressive – but not ruthless – in adding talent to our roster.”
Paton has been particularly selective with general manager openings over the years. Last year, following Kevin Stefanski’s departure for Cleveland, Paton was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns’ general manager position, but withdrew his name from controversy on January 24, 2020, two days after visiting a personal interview.
Paton was also in demand for openings with Detroit – this cycle and earlier, when the Detroit Lions hired former GM Bob Quinn – Green Bay, the San Francisco, Los Angeles Rams and New York Jets.
Paton is widely regarded among the best talent evaluators on the Vikings’ staff, and his exit leaves Minnesota with a big void in the front office. Ryan Monnens, the current director of pro scouting, could be in line to replace Paton this offseason.
ESPN’s Courtney Cronin contributed to this report.