Free Agency

Payton: Denver Broncos Won’t Trade WRs Jerry Jeudy or Courtland Sutton

Not so fast on those Denver Broncos trade talks, Sean Payton told NFL Media on Sunday.

The recently hired Broncos coach said the team is not about to trade wide receivers Courtland Sutton or Jerry Jeudy.

Reports have circulated for weeks that the Broncos have had those two on the market as they seek to jump start their passing game under the Payton regime. Denver expressed interest in free agents such as former Green Bay Packers wideout Allen Lazard, who ultimately signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the New York Jets.

A position makeover shouldn’t be out of the question for the Broncos. They have more than $42 million tied up in their receivers — third most at that position in the NFL, per Spotrac. For that, they had the league’s 19th-ranked passing offense and generated just 18 passing touchdowns — only nine teams had fewer.

Quarterback Russell Wilson, who cost Denver seven assets in a 2022 trade with the Seattle Seahawks, struggled mightily because he was constantly under pressure (the Broncos allowed a league-worst 63 sacks) and because his receivers weren’t consistently getting open. 

The Broncos immediately addressed the offensive line on Day 1 of the legal tampering period in free agency, signing tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Ben Powers. Those were moves the team had to make, The 33rd Team analyst and former NFL coach Mike Martz said.

“There’s a lot to fix there, and most of it is culture,” Martz said. “They never did protect (Wilson) very well. He never said anything about it, to his credit. He just bucked up and took it.

“The receiver group was awful. Everything was in complete disarray. Sean did the first thing you have to do: you solidfy the offensive line. Everything starts with the offensive line.”

Holding onto Jeudy makes sense. He turns 24 in late April, and the fourth-year pro brings good value because his cap number for 2023 is just $4.8 million. A first-round pick in 2020, Jeudy led the team in receptions (67), receiving yards (972) and touchdown receptions (six). The Broncos will have to decide by May 1 if they want to pick up his fifth-year option, which would cost almost $13 million against the cap in 2024.

Statistically, Sutton was on par with Jeudy, with a 64-829-2 line, but his cap number is $18 million. He is in the middle of a four-year, $60 million contract. Releasing the 27-year-old would deal the Broncos a $25 million-plus cap hit. Sutton has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in a season, just once — in 2019.

The Broncos also will get back Tim Patrick, who missed all of 2022 because of injury.  Patrick, 29, carries an $11 million cap hit. He’s never had more than 742 receiving yards in a season, and, like Sutton, never has had more than six TDs.

They also have K.J. Hamler, a 2020 second-round pick who is heading into his free-agency walk year. The speedy Hamler, who has a $2.3 million cap hit, was injured for 10 games and largely ignored when he did play last season. He was targeted just 14 times and made seven catches for 165 yards.

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