Is Tim Patrick likely to leave the Denver Broncos in free agency?

Denver Broncos WR #81 Tim Patrick. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos WR #81 Tim Patrick. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Is Tim Patrick likely to leave the Denver Broncos in free agency?

Of all the players on the Denver Broncos’ roster, who would have expected Tim Patrick to be the guy to have the big breakout season?

I will be the first to admit, it wasn’t me expecting that breakthrough from no. 81.

As a matter of fact, I felt like Patrick was more likely in competition for a roster spot with the likes of Tyrie Cleveland, a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and special teams ace who could return kicks and punts.

Patrick has made big plays for the Broncos before but has also struggled with injuries in his career and didn’t have a huge sample size going into 2020 despite having been with the Broncos for a number of years.

The Broncos knew Patrick could contribute on special teams and his experience in such a young group was valuable as a WR4, but he really opened training camp with the starters and was slated for WR2 duties opposite Courtland Sutton from day one.

We probably should have seen it coming a little bit. I even chalked that one up (Tim’s depth chart standing) to seniority from the Broncos’ coaching staff, especially given they were breaking in a new offense with an expedited OTAs/training camp and no preseason.

Patrick’s presence on the roster became even more valuable when Courtland Sutton suffered a shoulder injury before week one and then a season-ending knee injury in just his first game of the season.

13 games into the 2020 season, Patrick is shattering his previous career highs statistically. He’s caught 43 passes for 643 yards and six touchdowns, including three 100-yard receiving games and his first career multi-touchdown game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Patrick’s breakthrough is coming at a great time for him, personally, because he is a free agent after the 2020 season.

Many fans — of the Broncos or other teams — will look at Patrick’s free agent status and automatically think that he’s gone with Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler along with Courtland Sutton as the top trio for this team going forward, but it’s not going to be that easy to pry Patrick from the Broncos.

The Broncos have the tremendous benefit of Patrick being a restricted free agent in 2021, not unrestricted, which will give them a major advantage in keeping him around for 2021.

The Broncos can give Patrick a second-round restricted free agent tender. This tender is a fully guaranteed one-year deal worth just north of $3 million. Patrick would still have the opportunity to shop his services as a free agent, but if any team were to sign him to a free agent offer sheet and the Broncos decided not to match it, they would receive that team’s second-round pick in return.

The question then becomes — what NFL team is going to give up a second-round pick for Tim Patrick in another loaded draft class at the receiver position?

It’s not impossible, but is it likely? Teams didn’t even sniff around Shaquil Barrett when the Broncos offered him a second-round tender, and we can see now how that might have been a wise investment for a number of teams. Pass rushers and receivers are different, though.

Teams likely won’t be lining up to pay Tim Patrick a contract that the Broncos would not match in addition to giving up their second-round pick for him. It is just so rare to see that in the NFL today.

What the RFA tender usually winds up acting as is a franchise tag. Teams can work out sign-and-trade situations as well, but why would the Broncos settle for less than a second-round pick for Patrick when he has proven to be extremely valuable to the team?

Patrick has been the Broncos WR1 this year with Courtland Sutton out injured. It’s not like he’s going to be riding the pine all of 2021 if the team decides to bring him back. Injuries happen, you can rotate guys into the game, and Patrick is tremendous for the locker room.

His value to the Broncos is high, so the answer to the question, is Tim Patrick likely to leave the Broncos as a free agent? is very clearly “no”.

If Patrick were an unrestricted free agent, he could be looking at maybe $10 million per season from some team desperate for receiver help. That is not the case and he won’t be an unrestricted free agent until he’s 28 in the Spring of 2022.

The situation with Patrick is very similar to that of Phillip Lindsay. Teams would have to pay enough money to get these guys out of Denver and give up high draft picks to do it. Teams covet their draft capital, so that doesn’t seem like a likely scenario in the least.

Bank on Patrick being in Denver in 2021 at this point in time.