ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway and the Denver Broncos wanted George Paton to be the team’s new general manager so much, Paton was given a longer deal than Elway ever had in the same job.
Paton, who has spent the past 13 years with the Minnesota Vikings, has agreed to a six-year deal to be the Broncos’ general manager, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Broncos announced Paton’s hiring on Wednesday but did not disclose terms.
Paton had spent most of Tuesday in Denver for what was a second interview for him with team officials, and had returned to Minnesota Tuesday night.
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 director of player personnel Champ Kelly, the New England Patriots‘ Dave Ziegler and the Broncos’ director of college scouting 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 — the college and pro sides, salary cap, trades, 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 that he is smart and serious about winning. We’re thrilled to name George Paton as general manager of the Denver Broncos.”
Paton and Fontenot, who did his interview virtually because the Saints are still in the playoffs, were each interviewed a second time Tuesday.
Elway, who has been the Broncos’ top football decision-maker since 2011, announced last month he was stepping away from the day-to-day personal operations but would remain as president of football operations at least through the final year of his current contract.
Elway also said last week he didn’t think the team’s current ownership battle between Pat Bowlen’s children would impact the Broncos’ ability to secure what he believed would be a top candidate. Paton’s six-year deal would likely bridge any potential change in the team’s ownership in the coming years.
Paton has control over the team’s roster, free agency and the draft. The Broncos have missed the playoffs in five consecutive seasons since the Super Bowl 50 win and finished this past season 5-11.
The team faces contract option decisions on linebacker Von Miller and Kareem Jackson and Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons is scheduled to be among the team’s unrestricted free agents. A decision about the plan at quarterback also is among the front-burner issues for the Broncos.
The team has one of the youngest rosters in the league, enough salary cap room to participate in the open market and Elway and team president and CEO Joe Ellis each promised in recent days 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 is the right place and the right time for this opportunity,” Paton said in a statement. “… While it is difficult to leave the Vikings, the relationships I enjoyed in Minnesota are for life.
Paton added: “… Drafting and developing players is the No. 1 priority. We will be aggressive — but not reckless — 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 pulled his name from contention on Jan. 24, 2020, two days after he visited for an in-person interview.
Paton was also sought after for openings with Detroit — this cycle and previously when the Detroit Lions hired former GM Bob Quinn — Green Bay, San Francisco, the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Jets.
Paton is widely considered among the top talent evaluators on the Vikings’ personnel 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.