Why did George Paton and the Broncos trade Malik Reed to the Steelers?
In the last 20 months, we’ve learned a few things about Broncos general manager George Paton based on his actions and words. He’s spoken multiple times about how you can never have too many pass rushers. He’s also extolled the virtues of having “more darts” — i.e. draft picks — to throw.
And he also said in April that the Broncos would definitely add draft picks to their complement of five for next year.
So, given the desire for more pass rushers and the need for more draft capital, he chose the latter Tuesday regarding Malik Reed. Agent Mike McCartney first broke the news of the deal.
KUSA-Ch. 9’s Mike Klis first reported that the Broncos would get a 2023 6th-round pick back, sending a 7th-round pick to the Steelers as part of the deal.
So, the Broncos didn’t increase their sum total of draft picks. The number of “darts” is the same as they had going into Tuesday.
But they increased their draft capital. A mid-sixth-round pick is worth 5 points on the Rich Hill/Patriots scale and 18-to-21 points on the Jimmy Johnson scale. Mid-seventh-round picks are worth 2 points on the first scale and 5-to-8 points on the latter, respectively.
Effectively, that means Reed was worth the difference between a sixth- and seventh-round pick. That doesn’t sound like much on the surface. But as a backup with just one year of contract control who was on the roster bubble, the Broncos couldn’t expect much more.
Denver also saves $2,433,000 of cap space by trading Reed. And with some potential short-term and in-season roster needs and the long-term contract situation for Russell Wilson, every dollar of cap space counts.
Reed worked on the first team throughout training camp in place of Randy Gregory as he completed his recovery from rotator-cuff surgery. Gregory began working in team periods late in the preseason. He appears on track to play in Week 1 at Seattle.
But the real reason why the Broncos chose draft capital over the extra depth Reed provided was their faith in younger players to provide depth.
- Baron Browning became one of the Broncos’ summer stars working at outside linebacker. Whether it was against the No. 2 or No. 1 offensive line, his consistent disruption wreaked havoc. He becomes the top backup behind Gregory and Bradley Chubb, and will be a heavy rotational factor.
- Second-year player Jonathon Cooper surged late after recovering from finger surgery during OTAs. He had a sack against Minnesota last Saturday and logged three QB pressures a week earlier in Buffalo. It was a second consecutive strong preseason for Cooper, who dropped to the seventh round last year because of concerns over a heart condition.
- Second-round pick Nik Bonitto showed explosiveness in bursts. He logged a four-sack day in the joint practice with Dallas on Aug. 11. He also had sacks on two consecutive plays late last Saturday against Buffalo.
With those three young players, the Broncos felt comfortable parting ways with Reed. And a reason why they could trade him was his status as a strong fill-in. He led the Broncos with 8 sacks in 2020 and should transition smoothly into Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme.
Reed is also in his last season before becoming an unrestricted free agent. The Broncos signed him to an undrafted-level restricted-free-agent tender in April.
In contrast, Browning and Cooper each have three seasons left on their contracts. Bonitto, a rookie, has four.