Why Broncos Country shouldn’t hold its breath for any big pre-deadline trades

Oct 10, 2022, 3:02 PM
George Paton...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The moment the Cleveland Browns executed a trade for Atlanta Falcons ILB Deion Jones, the cries arose on social media: Why aren’t the Broncos making a trade like this?

I saw it on my timeline this morning.

Well, there’s a good reason for that.

First, let’s start with a primary consequence of the Russell Wilson trade: They have just five draft picks in 2023, and none of them come before Round 3. This is the same number of picks that they had when the 2022 draft ended, as the trade of Malik Reed to Pittsburgh involved turning a seventh-round pick into a sixth-rounder.

Of the five picks currently on the 2023 docket, Paton said this in April: “We’ll have a lot more than that — I guarantee it — by the time the draft comes around.”

Making trades of draft capital for big-name players would run counter to that. Further, the only way the Broncos can swallow the Russell Wilson contract and have a chance to succeed is by hitting on low-cost, first-contract players out of the draft.

If there are trades, they will likely be at the margins. Just like last year, when the Broncos traded for ILB Kenny Young and edge rusher Stephen Weatherly. In both of those deals, the Broncos sent a draft pick to the Rams and Vikings, respectively, for the player and another pick.

So, the Broncos left those trades with as many choices as they had. They picked up fringe starters or rotational players. Any deals the Broncos make are likely to look like this.

And then there are the looming cap numbers on Wilson’s contract. By 2024, he has a cap figure of $35.4 million; a year later, it’s $55.4 million. And while the cap will rise, the Broncos can’t go willy-nilly on their expenditures. Every last dollar they can carry over from year to year is one that will help offset Wilson’s rising cap figures.

It is cap concerns that likely precludes the Broncos from adding a name that moves the needle around these parts: Christian McCaffrey.

Carolina is 1-4. The team just fired its head coach, Matt Rhule. For the first time in three years, McCaffrey did not miss any of the season’s first five games due to injury. Further, his 5 consecutive games played represents his longest such streak in over two years. And he remains sufficiently productive when playing; he’s averaged 102.4 yards from scrimmage per game so far this season.

Denver could use that.

But what it couldn’t use is a $12-million cap figure that McCaffrey will have in 2023, 2024, although none of it would be guaranteed. And despite the recent run of form, McCaffrey remains a player who has missed more games (23) than he’s played (15) in the last three campaigns.

Even at a low draft-pick cost, for cap reasons, this isn’t a move the Broncos are likely to make — not unless it comes at relative pennies on the dollar in terms of draft compensation, and involves a pick returning — e.g. acquiring the player and a 5th-round choice for a 6th round pick.

As John Fox said, “No one’s coming to save us.”

With few draft picks and the need to plan for larger cap figures and potential re-signings like that of Bradley Chubb, the Broncos will have to find answers from within.

So, take a look at the Broncos roster — not just starters, but depth. Because nearly all of the replacements for their armada of injured players will come from there.

Paton received praise for his 2021 draft, and improved special-teams play shows that the bottom of the roster appears better.

Just how much better? In the parlance of Gary Kubiak, “We’re fixin’ to find out.”



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Why Broncos Country shouldn’t hold its breath for any big pre-deadline trades