After what felt likes months of inaction while the country was locked down and racked by a pandemic, an explosion of activity erupted at Denver Broncos HQ this week. Spurred, undoubtedly, by Saturday’s deadline to cut the roster down to the final 53 players, GM John Elway has been wheeling and dealing.
It started on Wednesday with the Broncos trading third-year cornerback Isaac Yiadom to the New York Giants in exchange for a 2021 seventh-round draft pick. On Friday, the flurry of roster maneuvers continued with Elway dealing veteran defensive lineman Christian Covington to the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for linebacker Austin Calitro.
It didn’t stop there, however, as the Broncos also cut four-year starting linebacker Todd Davis. That moved stunned Broncos Country.
With the team at Empower Field at Mile High on Friday to hold at least one more scrimmage before training camp officially concludes, one has to wonder if Elway will continue to keep the trades flowing. KUSA’s Broncos insider Mike Klis helped fuel that speculation in an appearance on the Stokley and Zach radio show on Friday afternoon.
“There might be one more move here,” Klis told 104.3 The FAN’s Brandon Stokley and Zach Bye. “Talking to Elway, I’m not sure what else they might want. I wouldn’t be surprised [if] there’s one more ‘wow’ [trade] between now and when the roster is—you know, when they get on the field on Thursday to start preparations for Tennessee.”
Klis wasn’t talking about a ‘wow’ roster cut that would surprise like the Davis decision. Klis was talking about a potential ‘wow’ trade. If such a move is imminent, would it be for an offensive or defensive guy?
“Do not know,” Klis told Stokley and Bye.
With the fire sale that’s been ongoing in Jacksonville, many Broncos fans are pining for Elway to make a deal to land linebacker Myles Jack. Although the move would be exciting, the Broncos seem to have a logjam of linebackers on the roster now.
Alexander Johnson has been exalted as the Broncos’ unquestioned No. 1 linebacker, whom Klis characterized on The FAN as a “three-down linebacker” the team does not plan on taking off the field. The recently-signed Mark Barron has been earmarked by the Broncos as the nickel linebacker, according to Klis in that same conversation.
After landing Calitro, whom the Broncos had actually tried to get in Denver on two previous (but unsuccessful) occasions, the team’s situation at linebacker seems to have crystallized. Perhaps, if another ‘wow’ trade were to unfold, it would be sourced from a position of strength.
Speculating on Potential Trade Assets
DeMarcus Walker clearly vanquished Covington in the training camp competition, but entering his fourth and final year, the Broncos might be able to command decent compensation in exchange their 2017 second-round pick in a trade with a team that needs an interior pass rusher. Or, even a team that runs a traditional 4-3 defense that is in need of a down-lineman defensive end who can get after the quarterback.
That’s pure speculation on my part. The only other spots where the Broncos have a clear strength is at wide receiver, running back, and tight end, but all the wideouts that might garner interest on the trading block are either rookies or Courtland Sutton, and the team isn’t about to deal one of its few offensive Pro Bowlers. Tight end, however, could be a different story.
Noah Fant would certainly garner interest from outside teams but one year removed from being drafted in the first round and going on to post a franchise-record rookie campaign, there’s almost no chance of that happening. But the Broncos already showed a propensity for turning around and trading a player signed as a free-agent just months ago in Covington. Nick Vannett might be able to garner interest to that end, but I doubt it.
Albert Okwuegbunam has generated some hype in training camp and as a rookie fourth-rounder and a tight end in a bromance with QB Drew Lock, it’s highly unlikely the Broncos would suddenly trade him away. But Vannett, Jake Butt (who’s stayed healthy thus far), Troy Fumagalli, and Andrew Beck might be a different story — provided there’s interest.
The only other spot is the running back position, in terms of it being a roster strength. Melvin Gordon could be dangled, but it’s a fat chance considering the $16 million deal the Broncos signed him to this past spring. The team brass obviously love him.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, though, might be viewed differently inside Dove Valley. But it would take an offer Elway couldn’t refuse, in my humble opinion, to deal away Lindsay, who is not only a locker room leader and inspiration but a bonafide play-maker and a totem to the fans. However, he has made disgruntled rumblings since the team chose to pay Gordon instead of giving him a raise by way of an extension.
Meanwhile, Freeman has disappointed the team since arriving as a third-round pick in 2018 out of Oregon. If the right offer came through for Freeman’s services, considering the presence of Jeremy Cox and rookie LeVante Bellamy, I could see the Broncos taking it.
The most glaring holes on the roster continue to be offensive tackle and cornerback, in terms of proven talent. The Broncos are sure to keep an eye out for any opportunity to improve either position in the coming days, whether via trade or the waiver wire.
Again, though, this is me speculating based on Klis’ tease that another ‘wow’ trade could be coming down the pike before the season-opener. There’s still more than a week to go before the Broncos will take the field to host the Tennessee Titans.
The Broncos have to trim the roster down to 53 players by 2 p.m. on Saturday, less than 24 hours from the publishing of this article. After scouring the waiver wire for cuts across the NFL, I would expect the Broncos to churn the bottom of the roster again over the weekend, just like they did last year on the doorstep of the regular season.
Those last two or three guys to make the 53 had better sleep with their bags packed because they could be waived if the right players hit the wire this weekend.