Should the Broncos “do right” by Tim Patrick in 2021 offseason?

Denver Broncos WR #81 Tim Patrick. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos WR #81 Tim Patrick. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the top free agents on the Denver Broncos’ priority lists in the 2021 offseason is wide receiver Tim Patrick.

Tim Patrick is a restricted free agent heading into the 2021 free agency period which complicates matters for the player and gives the team ultimate flexibility.

Restricted free agent status is for players whose contract has expired with three accrued seasons and essentially gives teams franchise tag power for a fraction of the price.

Patrick was an undrafted free agent who initially signed with the Baltimore Ravens after the 2017 NFL Draft. He found his way to the San Francisco 49ers before ultimately landing on his feet in Denver, where he got a chance to play in the 2018 season on a limited basis.

He worked his way to more offensive snaps in 2019 despite an injury, and then in 2020 he emerged as one of the top threats in the offense with Courtland Sutton out due to a knee injury.

The Broncos have Sutton coming back for the 2021 season and if he’s fully healthy, he would obviously be in the team’s long-term plans. The Broncos also have 2020 first-round pick Jerry Jeudy, 2020 second-round pick KJ Hamler, and 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant at the tight end position.

The unfortunate reality for Tim Patrick is this — as good as he was in 2020, he’s going to have to be exceptionally patient in 2021 when it comes to getting targets because the target share is going to be spread quite a bit.

There is the other unfortunate reality of injuries being a constant in the NFL, but there is no guarantee that Patrick is going to get the same number of snaps and targets in 2021 as he got in 2020 when he played 74 percent of the snaps with 79 targets.

If everyone is healthy — which is what Patrick should be assuming going forward — it’s not out of the question that he would end up fourth or even fifth on the team in targets in 2021.

It’s not unfair to say that Patrick’s free agent value will not likely be higher in 2022 than it is in 2021, so the question that needs to be asked is this: Do the Broncos need to “do right’ by Tim Patrick and let him hit free agency?

If the Broncos slap Patrick with a second-round restricted free agent tender, it is probably going to repel just about any team trying to pursue him as a free agent. With that being said, the Broncos could slap him with the second-round tender and work out a sign-and-trade with another team for a draft pick that is less than a second-round pick if no team bites at that price.

It’s not impossible to think that a team picking late in the second round would be interested in Patrick for that price point, though. Patrick is an ascending player who is entering his prime years at an extremely valuable position in today’s NFL.

Some team might look at him and think they could get a legitimate starting X receiver for a decent price in free agency, but they would undoubtedly have to get the Broncos a top-100 pick in return.

Patrick’s value to the Broncos is too high, and it’s been proven why he would be worth just over $3 million on a second-round restricted free agent tender.

Patrick is invaluable to the Broncos in case anyone gets hurt, but he also would factor into the rotation if everyone is healthy. Having a player like Patrick is a tremendous luxury for the Broncos and they shouldn’t just give that up, as selfish as that may seem on Patrick’s end.

Patrick could try to demand a trade, but his best course of action is to have his agent shop his services around as soon as the Broncos make a decision on his restricted free agent status, second-round or not. If there are teams willing to deal with Denver in the third round or higher, the Broncos might listen to that.

Until then, it makes no sense for the Broncos to original-round tender or non-tender someone so valuable to the team. That would be bad business, not doing right by a good player.