Broncos: Why a trade for CB Darius Slay would make sense

Mike Klis suggested the Denver Broncos should trade a third-round pick to the Lions for CB Darius Slay. Does that deal make sense?

In a recent article, 9News Broncos insider Mike Klis opined that the Broncos should consider a trade of Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay this offseason.

Cornerback is near the top of the list of offseason needs for the Broncos with veteran Chris Harris Jr. set to test the free agent waters and possibly (likely) leave for a new city and team.

With a deep crop of free agent cornerbacks, would a trade — Slay for a third-round pick — make sense for the Broncos? The short answer: Absolutely.

The long answer:

John Elway has long preferred to fill needs via free agency and he’s been aggressive making trades when it makes sense to do so.

According to Klis’ report (linked above) the Broncos and Lions had discussions at last year’s trade deadline about the Lions possibly acquiring Harris from the Broncos in exchange for Slay, but the Lions wanted a high draft pick in return for Slay as well.

The price to acquire Slay, one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, is undoubtedly lower than the Lions perhaps think. The Broncos know this all too well. Chris Harris Jr. was reportedly the center of some trade rumors around the time of last year’s draft, and it truly felt like his days in Denver were numbered before he played the whole 2019 season with the team.

The Broncos held out for more than any team was willing to pay for Harris, and now they will have to wait potentially until 2021 for any sort of compensatory pick for him.

The Lions will not get higher than a third-round pick for Slay if he leaves next offseason as a free agent at the age of 30, and that compensatory pick — provided the new CBA with the NFL and NFLPA has the same rules for compensatory draft picks — will be 20, nearly 30 spots lower than the Broncos’ top two picks in the third round this year.

The Lions should be motivated to get the best deal they can for Slay, who has been the subject of trade rumors even longer than Harris at this point.

Slay’s play on the field warrants much more than a third-round pick in compensation, but the fact that he’s on the final year of his contract means they will not get nearly the type of value they would hope to get for him.

The Broncos would be saving themselves from paying for a player in free agency at an even comparable level to Chris Harris Jr. so they can maintain as high of a 2021 compensatory selection as possible. Trading for Slay would solidify one side of the field at the cornerback position with Bryce Callahan, De’Vante Bausby, and a host of young players available to compete for the other jobs.

Slay’s $10 million base salary this year is more than palatable for the Broncos. That was the price last offseason for second-tier corners, so getting one of the top 10 cornerbacks in football for that price would be an outstanding investment of a third-round pick.

The Broncos could then work to re-sign Slay to a new deal for maybe three years on top of his current contract if they see fit, or they could pay him a franchise tag in 2021 and get him on at least a two year investment worth somewhere in the ballpark of $24-25 million of total money.

These are investments worth making when you know you are securing veteran players who are proven at their craft. Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur have both seen a lot of Slay having coached in the NFC North in recent years, so they are obviously very familiar with what he brings to the table as a player.

Slay has also missed just three games in the last three years, and also has 13 interceptions and a whopping 56 pass breakups in that time.

Next: Broncos mock draft: What if Robby Anderson is signed?

If he’s available for a third-round pick, the Broncos are a no-brainer possible destination with a need at cornerback and three third-round picks to play with in the 2020 NFL Draft.