The Denver Broncos are just a game away from being fully focused on the first full offseason of the Sean Payton era. After hiring Payton in 2023, everyone assumed the Broncos would be instantly better but it's remarkable that the team went from being the laughingstock of the league to being in playoff contention through Week 17.
Among a variety of other areas of focus, the Denver Broncos are going to likely make a massive change at the quarterback position in 2024, and there are only so many avenues they can realistically go down. Although it may seem to be out of the realm of realism, at least for the time being, I believe trading up to the no. 1 overall pick with the Chicago Bears is something we can keep on the table.
How is that possible? Well, I think the Broncos have one of the best bargaining chips if the Bears actually do put the top pick in this year's draft up for sale. That bargaining chip is star cornerback Pat Surtain II.
Surtain, believe it or not, is the Broncos' most recent first-round draft selection. He was the team's top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the first pick of George Paton's tenure as GM with the franchise. And he's been nothing short of a home run selection for this Broncos team. Surtain's presence at the cornerback position has been like that of a veteran since he first got onto the field, and he's already going to be entering his fourth NFL season in 2024. That's pretty wild to think about.
Time flies when...things are crazy?
With Surtain entering his fourth year in 2024, he's officially eligible for a contract extension. The Broncos will also have the chance to exercise his fifth-year option this offseason, which is a no-brainer...if Surtain is still on the roster by May.
If the Chicago Bears are looking to move off of the first overall pick in this year's NFL Draft (again), then there might not be a better player for them to acquire in a trade than Pat Surtain II. The Bears made a deal to move all the way down to the 9th overall pick last year with the Carolina Panthers, who invested the top pick on Alabama QB Bryce Young. That trade landed the Bears both veteran receiver DJ Moore as well as starting right tackle Darnell Wright, and a hoard of other selections.
The play of Justin Fields in 2023 might have the Bears believing that they've got their guy at the quarterback position, and if they're poised to pass on quarterbacks again in 2024, you can take it to the bank that Sean Payton will be at least inquiring about the price to move up.
Even if the Broncos finish somewhere in the mid-late teens with their draft pick, I think a deal centered around Pat Surtain II would entice Chicago GM Ryan Pace.
We already know that Sean Payton absolutely loves USC quarterback Caleb Williams. He's called him a "generational talent" at the position and said he felt a player like Williams could move the NFL to a lottery-based system in the NFL Draft process. Well, how about an auction-based system, at least for another year?
It doesn't have to be limited to Williams, but acquiring the no. 1 overal pick seems to be a legitimate option for a variety of reasons.
1. The Bears traded the #1 pick a year ago, passing on CJ Stroud in the process. They have belief in Justin Fields within that building.
2. Justin Fields has likely fortified the team's feelings about him by showing needed progression in 2023.
3. The Bears have sent a signal-fire that they are ready to compete. They have been one of the league's best teams in the second half of the 2023 season (no, seriously) and they made a deadline deal for Montez Sweat, signaling their win-now mentality.
4. Matt Eberflus, the Bears' head coach, is expected to be retained. Expect other major carryover, including the likelihood of Justin Fields remaining QB1.
Furthermore, the Bears' decision to trade the top pick last year to Carolina in a deal that included a proven player makes their situation fascinating. Ryan Poles has shown a clear level of aggressiveness when it comes to adding veteran players through trade, namely guys like DJ Moore, Montez Sweat, and even Chase Claypool last year. I think he would greatly value a player like Pat Surtain II, and imagine being in this position as a GM.
If you feel like you've got your franchise QB, you could stay put with the top overall pick and take another blue-chip prospect, or you could add an already-established star at a premium position in today's NFL as well as additional picks.
If Pat Surtain II is worth multiple first-round picks on his own (see: Jalen Ramsey/Jaguars/Rams trade) -- and he undoubtedly is -- you could theoretically be getting the value of at least four first-round picks for the price of one. The Broncos could offer a package centered around PS2 and their first-round selections in 2024 and 2025.
It's a lot to give up for one player, and after the way things just went down with the Russell Wilson deal, I don't blame Broncos Country for being a little frazzled at even the idea of making another blockbuster move like this. But the Walton-Penner Ownership Group has put their faith in Sean Payton to get things right. And if Payton wants to make an aggressive move up the draft board like this -- and the Bears are amenable to it -- it's not the craziest idea in the world.
The Bears could get a star cornerback and have multiple first-round picks this year and next. The Broncos could get the franchise QB of their choosing.
Keep in mind also -- the Broncos have only ever won the Super Bowl with a former 1st overall pick under center...though they've never picked 1st overall themselves.
It's certainly not mandatory for the Broncos to make a move like this, but it's an interesting proposition for a team like Chicago, especially if they are sold on Justin Fields going forward. If not? This all becomes a moot point and the Broncos will have to focus on what players could be there in the middle of round one.
But Broncos Country -- don't become too attached to any players on the roster, even the best ones...