ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – With a little over a month until the NFL draft, the Denver Broncos find themselves in a difficult situation of wanting more picks.
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy might be the solution.
As it stands, because of the trades to acquire quarterback Russell Wilson and coach Sean Payton, the Broncos won’t have a selection until the third round -- picks Nos. 67 and 68. Broncos general manager George Paton has expressed a desire to get back into the first or second round. But, after seven consecutive playoff misses and a fourth coaching change since January of 2017, their roster has a short list of players who could command those kinds of picks.
Which is why personnel executives around the league believe Jeudy’s name has come up so often in recent trade discussions. And why the Broncos, according to those same sources, have received some interest in Courtland Sutton as well.
Wide receiver is the only position on the Broncos’ offensive depth chart, personnel executives said, that has multiple players who they would consider pursuing in a trade -- either because of performance, contract status, or both. Jeudy is still on his rookie deal.
Payton and Paton have not spoken publicly since brief appearances at the combine. But Payton has said a review of the team’s roster by the coaching staff is “ongoing.’’ Paton had retrieved a first-round pick at the trade deadline when Bradley Chubb was sent to the Miami Dolphins, but the Broncos then surrendered that pick as part of the deal with the New Orleans Saints to hire Payton.
When asked at the combine how aggressive the team would be to try to get additional picks for this April’s draft, Paton said: “We’re always looking to add. It’s not always easy. It’s easier to do during the draft -- to move back and you could acquire picks. ... I do think the top five (picks) of the third round is kind of the sweet spot of the draft. If we can get a couple really good players to contribute, we’re going to do that.’’
League sources, including some with teams that have been in contact with the Broncos, have said so far the Broncos have been resolute about getting a first- or second-round pick in any deal that involved Jeudy. The Broncos must decide by May 1 -- two days after the draft concludes -- if they are going to pick up Jeudy's fifth-year option.
Jeudy, who was the team’s first-round pick in 2020, led the team in catches (67), receiving yards (972) and touchdowns (six). He was the only player in the league’s lowest scoring offense to have more than two touchdown receptions last season.
Jeudy, who has been limited him to 10 and 15 games in each of the last two seasons by injuries, is considered one of the most explosive route runners in the league. For his part Sutton, in the team’s churn of quarterbacks and coaching changes in his five seasons, has not duplicated his 1,000-yard effort in 2019 and has four touchdown catches in the last two years combined.
Sutton has reacted publicly to the trade swirl in recent weeks with a social media posting that he wants go where he “is appreciated.’’
It’s clear the Broncos, especially after Payton's promised post-combine review of the roster, want to adjust the wide receivers room. They added former Saints receiver Marquez Callaway on Friday, who played two seasons for Payton in New Orleans. The Broncos were, according to sources, in contact with representatives for Allen Lazard and Adam Thielen in the early hours of free agency. Thielen confirmed it after he had signed a three-year deal with the Carolina Panthers.
Lazard signed a four-year deal with the New York Jets. The Dallas Cowboys, one of the teams that had been in contact with the Broncos about Jeudy, made a trade to acquire Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans. Dallas sent a fifth-round pick in April’s draft to go with a sixth-round pick in 2024 for Cooks.
If the Broncos do not reduce their asking price for Jeudy personnel executives believe it’s more likely he now would be traded closer to the draft. Cleveland, which does not have a first-round pick, and New England, which has the No. 14 and No. 46 picks, are considered to be most interested in acquiring a receiver.
The Browns did make a trade with the Jets on Wednesday to acquire Elijah Moore.
If the Broncos do succeed in trading Jeudy, his explosiveness would need to be replaced in the offense. Even with Tim Patrick’s return from last season’s knee injury, their depth would be an issue as KJ Hamler (selected in the 2020 draft as well) continues to battle hip and knee troubles and has a partially torn pectoral muscle.
Paton said of Jeudy at the combine: “Really happy with how Jerry finished off the season, especially the last couple of games … Really happy with where Jerry is at.’’