Von Miller will suit up for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, marking the first time the future Hall of Famer has put on any NFL uniform that doesn't belong to the Denver Broncos. In a blockbuster move ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline, the Broncos sent Miller to the Rams in exchange for second- and third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, leaving many to believe Denver is mailing it in for the 2021 season -- something that may not bode well for head coach Vic Fangio if they did. According to general manager George Paton, however, the opposite is true.
Speaking about the move not long after it was made, Paton told media he sees the Broncos as being "in the thick of it" going into Week 9, sitting squarely at .500, and that it is "not fair" to their "core guys" to discuss rebuilding. The operative word there is of course "discuss", but the fact remains that Paton says there is no tank parked outside of Empower Field at Mile High.
"I just told them I believed in them," he said, via the team's website. "I believe in the players that have to replace Von. You saw that [Sunday]. This is not a fire sale. We believe in all these guys."
It's been a rough go for Miller and the Broncos as of late, and that statement is true for both the 2021 season and the most recent ones before it -- the club having run extremely lean the past five consecutive seasons. And after getting off to a strong 3-0 start to this season, they dropped four straight to fall to 3-4 before finally landing back in the win column with a much-needed victory over the Washington Football Team in Week 8.
Trading away the franchise's all-time leader in sacks, and ahead of a matchup with Dak Prescott and the high-flying Dallas Cowboys is a curious decision to some, and it's a move that reportedly caught Miller and his now former teammates off-guard, but it's one Paton stands behind wholeheartedly.
"We're 4-4. Everything's in front of us," said Paton. "So we had a long conversation. I think they're all in. I know they're all in.
"We traded one player. He's a great player. But we believe in the guys behind him. We believe in this roster."
The problem is that believing in the roster doesn't instantly make them elite. They'll have to go out on the field and prove it, and in the brutally tough AFC West. The good news is they're not far behind the division-leading Las Vegas Raiders -- who stand at 5-2 and have some extreme off-the-field issues (from the controversy and dismissal of head coach Jon Gruden to the recent felony DUI arrest of former first-round pick Henry Ruggs III that's now led to his release) -- and with both the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs both stumbling as of late.
The bad news is the Broncos schedule is mostly unforgiving going forward, having to face the Cowboys, Chargers and Chiefs in three of their next four games. They're about to find out if the guys Paton believes in can step up, or if the Broncos will soon step out of the playoff picture in the AFC.
"We do need to play better," Paton admitted. "Everyone needs to know that. There is an urgency. ... We haven't played great.
"We need to play better. But the fact of the matter is we're 4-4 and we're still in it. I believe in these guys, and I believe they can turn it around."