Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton put an end to trade rumors about wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in late March, but before the Broncos nixed the idea of trading away their star, they apparently set a high asking price for suitors.
According to ESPN senior writer Jeff Legwold, the Broncos were seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Jeudy when teams asked about him earlier in the 2023 offseason. Legwold also reinforced that Jeudy drew “plenty of trade interest” before the team rebuffed trade conversations with teams about the 24-year-old star wide receiver.
“Sources in the league said repeatedly this offseason the Broncos wanted a first-round pick in exchange for Jeudy before Payton publicly said the Broncos weren’t going to trade him,” Legwold wrote on July 11. “The Broncos eventually picked up Jeudy’s fifth-year option for the 2024 season.”
With Jeudy now locked in for the next two seasons with the Broncos, he will have an opportunity to solidify himself as a consistent No. 1 receiver for quarterback Russell Wilson during the 2023 season. He is coming off his most productive season yet (67 receptions for 972 yards and six touchdowns, all career-highs) in 2022, but he was also the victim of inconsistent stretches that had more to do with confounding offensive play-calling decisions and poor quarterback play than anything he did specifically.
If Payton can bring the change the Broncos are hoping he will in 2023, Jeudy could reap the benefits and do more than justify the first-round price tag they placed on him.
Broncos ‘in the Business of Gathering Talent’ for 2023
As Payton acknowledged in an interview with NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on March 26, the Broncos had received calls about both Jeudy and Courtland Sutton in large part due to the fact that trade suitors knew they were short on capital for the 2023 draft, a result of them giving up premium assets to acquire Wilson from Seattle in 2022.
The Broncos, however, were more interested in gathering talent than giving it away even though their 2022 campaign (5-12 finish) did not go according to plans.
“When people call and the phone rings like it does this time of year, [general manager] George Paton’s job is to pick it up and say, ‘Hey. Tell you what, we’re not.’ And so, we’ve received calls, you bet,” Payton said. “Those are two good football players. But we’re in the business of gathering talent right now. Why do people call? Because they know we’re void of draft picks and that we might, because there were some discussions a year ago, I think, regarding Courtland. But we like the current group that we’re working with.”
How Will Broncos Solve With Logjam at Wide Receiver?
The Broncos have a good receiver problem at the moment. Rather than facing a lack of veteran talent, as the Green Bay Packers or Tennessee Titans both are, they are housing a competent trio of starters in Jeudy, Sutton and Tim Patrick — who is set to make his much-anticipated return in 2023 after missing all of last season with an ACL tear.
The Broncos have also stashed a number of capable depth pieces behind their core of starters, including KJ Hamler, former New Orleans Saints contributor Marquez Callaway (who played under Payton) and second-round rookie Marvin Mims. If the unit can realize its full potential, it could be one of the NFL’s best receiving corps in 2023.
Could the Broncos shake things up before the start of the regular season, though?
Right now, Hamler is a notable name to watch inside the Broncos’ receiver group. The 2020 second-round pick has been battered with injuries ever since his promising rookie season, missing a combined 24 games over the past two years. He also underwent surgery in March to repair a partially torn pectoral muscle and might not be ready in time for the start of training camp, putting him firmly in “bubble watch” territory.
The Broncos did rework Hamler’s contract at the beginning of July, giving themselves some injury safeguards in terms of the salary cap and adding more incentives for Hamler to chase in the final year of his rookie deal. The restructure, however, does not guarantee Hamler will make the 53-man roster when decisions are made in August.
Maybe the Broncos will decide Hamler is a good enough depth piece to roll the dice on once more in 2023, but a rough camp — or one where Mims outshines him — could force their hand when they are making their cut decisions. Alternatively, a good camp out of both Hamler and Mims could tempt the Broncos into trading away Hamler for whatever value they can acquire, as the restructure also makes a trade more favorable for them.