The Denver Broncos have been making trades during the 2021 season, but what are they actually accomplishing so far with the moves?
The Denver Broncos have been wheeling and dealing the last couple of months under general manager George Paton.
Paton had made a couple of trades before 2021 roster cuts, but a handful of deals later and we’re starting to get a feel for how the Broncos GM likes to negotiate and what it takes to get a deal done with him.
Paton struck his first trade as an NFL general manager on the day before the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He sent a sixth-round pick (191st overall) to the Carolina Panthers for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Not only did the Broncos get Bridgewater, but they got him on a restructured contract.
Broncos are making trades, but what’s being accomplished?
Not a bad first deal for a rookie general manager, getting a veteran QB he’s familiar with to upgrade the room and ultimately get him at a significant discount.
Including trades made in the 2021 NFL Draft (Paton moved up in the second round, down in the third to accumulate picks), it’s clear that Paton likes to keep his draft pick stash fully stocked, even if he has to move down a round to get deals done.
Paton sent preseason star wide receiver Trinity Benson to the Detroit Lions for a 5th and 7th-round pick.
To upgrade on special teams, Paton sent a 2022 6th-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for Jonas Griffith and 7th-round picks in the 2022 and 2023 drafts.
He recently traded a 2022 7th-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings in his first trade with Rick Spielman (his old boss) to get defensive end Stephen Weatherly and a 2023 7th-round pick.
Paton’s most recent trade involved picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, which barely even feels real at this point. He sent a 2024 6th-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for inside linebacker Kenny Young and a 2024 7th-round pick.
Getting a fifth-round pick for Trinity Benson (and a 7th) was an absolute steal in hindsight, and Paton has basically moved down a round in a couple of drafts in order to get help elsewhere on the roster.
The early returns on each of these moves?
For the players acquired, it’s not been great thus far.
Teddy Bridgewater came into Denver and won the starting quarterback job over Drew Lock, though the coaching staff admitted that it was a close call. Through seven games, Bridgewater has looked brilliant at times, and at others, he’s looked lost and downright terrible.
Jonas Griffith has been spending some time on injured reserve and hasn’t made the impact on special teams the Broncos were obviously hoping for while Weatherly and Young have yet to make their debuts for the Broncos.
Most of these moves would have to be considered of the “low-risk” variety. Paton is not out here giving up valuable draft selections for players, and the only trade he made for a player without getting a draft pick in return was the Bridgewater trade, which involved a restructured deal helping the Broncos out.
It’s clear at this point that Paton likes to make trades with one eye on the future, no matter how distant. He isn’t going to give up draft capital — even a 7th-round pick — for players like Stephen Weatherly without the insurance of another draft pick coming down the pike at some point.
For now, Paton is giving the impression that he and the Broncos will be “buyers” at this year’s trade deadline, at least to some degree.
The team has a chance to move to 4-4 if they can find a way to win at home against the Washington Football Team. If the Broncos can win that game, it will be interesting to see how Paton approaches the trade deadline.
Based on the team’s documentary during the NFL Draft and the way Paton handled negotiations then, he’s not going to get cheated in a deal. He’s probably been part of so many trade calls through the years that he knows good value and trading unknown picks for bottom of the roster players is only a good value if you’re also getting a pick — even if it’s a round later — back in return.
Players like Jonas Griffith, Stephen Weatherly, and Kenny Young will all have varying degrees of impact on this Broncos team, perhaps none of them beyond 2021.
Those deals are worth making, however, because, for the price to acquire each player, there’s a better chance those players make Paton look good than a future 7th-round pick will.
And those selections being traded away? Well, as we can see, they are pretty easily recovered.
So what are these trades really accomplishing?
What’s Stephen Weatherly’s value to the Broncos with Von Miller, Malik Reed, Jonathon Cooper having some success, and Bradley Chubb not far off from a possible return?
What’s Kenny Young’s value to the Broncos beyond just being an injury replacement this season?
We’re fixing to find out.