When the Denver Broncos went on a spending spree over the November 19 weekend, it signaled that general manager George Paton is serious about keeping the present intact, with a keen eye on the future.
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An Undrafted Rags to Riches Story
Paton’s first move was to re-sign wideout Tim Patrick to a three-year contract extension that’s reportedly worth $30 million, including $18.5 million guaranteed. The University of Utah product had signed a one-year, $3.38 million deal prior to the start of the 2021 campaign, and was slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. But with him being locked up for the next three seasons, it not only keeps the Broncos’ budding wideout room intact, but also rewards one of the league’s true rags-to-riches story.
The 27-year old Patrick has endured a long and winding road to his NFL payday. His journey began at a junior college called Grossmont College, which is just outside of San Diego, before he transferred to Utah. Injuries derailed him some during his career, specifically a compound leg fracture, which contributed to him going undrafted.
He entered the NFL by being picked up by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2017, but was cut. He then signed a practice-squad deal with the San Francisco 49ers, but was again released shortly after that. The Broncos came calling later that season, and Patrick spent the final 11 games on the practice squad. He made his NFL debut in 2018, and since then, he’s been a very solid contributor, improving every season.
Since 2018, Patrick has accrued 127 catches for 1,798 yards and 11 touchdowns, while emerging as one of the league’s most sure-handed receivers.
Patrick has been equally as solid in 2021, as he’s tallied 37 catches for 323 yards, with four touchdowns so far.
Comeback Story Complete
When Patrick re-upped on November 19, that left one Broncos star wideout remaining to get taken care of — Courtland Sutton.
Three days after Patrick secured his bag, the Broncos made sure Sutton also wouldn’t leave the 2021 season without a long-term deal, as he was inked to a four-year, $60.8 million deal, including $34.9 million guaranteed.
Sutton, who is only a little more than a year removed from tearing his ACL in a Week 2 road loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers, has come back to form with a vengeance. He currently leads the Broncos (5-5) with 43 receptions and 617 receiving yards, to go with two touchdowns, and is showing the NFL world that Patrick isn’t the only sure-handed wideout in Denver.
During Sutton’s 43 career games with the Broncos, he’s amassed 160 catches for 2,499 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was also a Pro Bowl selection in 2019, after he tallied 72 catches for 1,112 yards, and six touchdowns.
It’s been a whirlwind of a calendar year for Sutton, who was a second-round pick by the Broncos in 2018, as he was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March, 2022. But now, he’ll return to the Mile High City with an average value of $15.2 million, which will rank 14th among NFL receivers on long-term contracts, according to Over The Cap.
Both the re-signings of Patrick and Sutton display the trend that Paton adopted upon being hired as the team’s general manager back in January of 2021 — keep as many good in-house players on the roster. Besides the two wideouts, Paton retained defensive end Shelby Harris and safety Justin Simmons before the 2021 season commenced.
Setting up for Something big
Now that Paton has inked his two star wideouts for the foreseeable future, and the other two important receiving pieces — Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler — are on rookie deals, along with rookie running back sensation Javonte Williams, the Broncos are primed to be a real contender in 2022, if they stabilize the quarterback situation.
Zac Stevens, of DNVR Sports, tweeted his satisfaction of Paton’s vision, noting the Broncos should be enticing to whichever quarterback is under center — with the preferable choices being between two certain future Hall of Fame signal callers who have been linked to the Broncos all season.
Stevens noted that even if the Broncos whiff on either Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, that even a prized rookie quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft would enjoy a nice transition to the league, considering the weapons abound in Denver.
Also an important aside to the signings is that Paton won’t have to use the franchise tag in March, 2022, or have to address the receiver position in the 2022 draft.
Zack Kelberman, of Mile High Huddle, is also pleased with the two signings, tweeting that the Broncos are set up for long-term success.
Simply put, Paton is deftly setting up the franchise for long-term success, regardless of who the quarterback is in 2022.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8