ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Even for a pair of second-day 2022 draft picks and the roster-building flexibility those will provide, George Paton confirmed it wasn't easy signing off on Von Miller's departure to the Los Angeles Rams.
“No doubt. This was not easy. I didn't sleep Sunday night,” the Broncos' first-year general manager said Tuesday at the end of the franchise's first full day without their superstar linebacker in 10½ years.
Paton and Rams GM Les Snead worked out the deal Sunday night and Paton informed Miller on Monday morning that the Broncos were sending the franchise's all-time leading sack master w to Hollywood.
“This guy's an icon. He can still rush the passer," Paton said. "But it's a win-win, and you have to make the best decision for your franchise.”
Paton, who took over GM duties from president of football operations John Elway this year, spent the first five minutes of his 21-minute press conference lauding the loquacious linebacker who almost single-handedly won Super Bowl 50 with the most dominating defensive performance in the game’s history.
Paton said everybody in the building was dour after losing the “franchise cornerstone” and future “Ring of Famer and Hall of Famer.”
“I always admired Von from afar, he's probably the best pass rusher of his era and really one of the best pass rushers of all time,” Paton said. “And just being around him the last 10 months or so, I have much more appreciation for Von as a player but really much more appreciation for Von as a person.”
Paton spoke about Miller's passion on the field and charisma off it, about his locker room leadership and his commitment to the community.
“The thing that resonated the past 24 hours is how he touched so many people in this building and obviously we feel good about the trade, but it wasn't a great day here,” Paton said. "And we all miss Von already. The accountants, the H.R. department and everyone was a little down.
“So, it's been a tough 24 hours because he was such a big part of this building and really a bit part of our community, a pillar in our community with his charity, Von's Vision, and all he's done for kids. It's really truly remarkable the career that he's had here.
"We're going to miss Von, but he'll always be a Bronco.”
Paton said informing Miller on Monday morning that he'd been traded was “the hardest thing I've had to do.”
Paton said he and Miller had a long talk about his legacy in Denver and his opportunity in L.A. and how both sides won the league's biggest trade of the season.
“We could have moved Von somewhere else, but we wouldn't do that. We wanted to do right by Von," Paton said. “We sent him to a great franchise, a team right in the thick of it. And he's really going to fit in there."
Asked if he didn't see that same situation in Denver, Paton said, “We're still trying to get where they're at. You know, we're a younger team. I think we're going to get there. I just think it's going to take a little more time. We may be by the end of the season. But if we had to trade him, that was the type of place where we wanted to trade him.”
Had the Broncos held onto Miller and lost him in free agency after the season, the best they could have hoped for was a fifth-round compensatory pick. Now they own 11 picks in next year's draft, including five in the top 100.
Paton also gave votes of confidence to head coach Vic Fangio and embattled offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
“We are 4-4, it feels like we're 1-7,” Paton said. “But we are 4-4 and we're right in the thick of it.”
The Broncos are averaging fewer than 20 points a game and Shurmur's play calls have been head-scratching, particularly on Sunday after Justin Simmons' seemingly game-saving end zone interception in the final minute.
In between Teddy Bridgewater inexplicably throwing an incompletion to stop the clock with 32 seconds left and saving Washington a timeout, the Broncos fumbled twice, losing the second one at their 24 with 21 seconds remaining before they held on to snap a four-game losing skid.
“We do need to play better,” Paton said. "We just don't seem to have a lot of rhythm, we're not good in critical downs, critical areas of the field.
He added, however, that “Pat has had a lot of success. So, I do believe in Pat.”
Notes: Paton also stated for the record that the Miller trade had nothing to do with a reported rift in the locker room over him wanting to back out of his annual Halloween bash and to have teammates help foot the bill. ... Paton also traded rookie CB Kary Vincent Jr., a seventh-round pick who was inactive for all eight games, to the Eagles for a sixth-round pick in 2022. “We just have a logjam at corner,” Paton said, noting that Mike Ford, Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey are close to returning from injuries. ... TE Noah Fant went on the COVID-19 reserve list.
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