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Broncos reach deal with Vikings’ Paton to be GM

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 last 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 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 Fotenot, Chicago Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly, the New England Patriots’ Dave Ziegler and the Broncos’ director of college scouting Brian Stark.

Paton and Fotenot, 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 week 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 Ellis each promised in recent days the new general manager would have “the resources” to make improvements.

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.

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