The Denver Broncos should trade Pat Surtain II… and do it now
Before you preemptively call me names and mock other opinions I’ve had of Patrick Surtain II, let me be extremely clear: The following is the absolute highest compliment I could ever give him.
Surtain should be traded as soon as possible.
Easy now, before you lose your social media gasket, hear me out. What I’m saying lines up directly with those who believe he is a generational player. We are on the same side.
Let me explain.
I’m a huge believer in relative value. There is a player’s worth and then there is his value within his position and against other positions. Building a successful team entails keeping a solid budget alongside dynamic talent. In general, most players’ relative value to their draft position goes down.
For example, the Broncos are trying to trade forlorn wide receiver, Courtland Sutton. He was a second-round draft pick and a multi-time team captain. Because of his hefty contract and his diminishing talent, they will be lucky to get a sixth-round pick and some Arby’s coupons for him. His value doesn’t equal his contract. The Broncos are underwater on this specific player.
The exact opposite in terms of value is Surtain. At least that’s what I’ve been led to understand by the virtual lanterns-and-pitchfork mob of Surtain fans.
I have been mocked and ridiculed for stating my belief based on future projections that the best player on the team is Jerry Jeudy. According to the outraged masses, I took it 5,280 steps too far when I said if Surtain was any good he would’ve become a receiver. Surtain mocked me on social media with a “🤷♂️” and Caden Sterns just called me dumb.
Side note: Jeudy didn’t have a response. I’m glad somebody has my back!
Okay. Okay. I get it. Fine. Let’s assume I’m wrong and the world is right. Let me ask the citizens of the earth these three questions.
What is the trade value of Surtain this year?
How confident are you that the value will be the same or better next year?
Do you think the Broncos are in a championship window right now?
Current trade value
The most comparable corner to Surtain in the past 10 years is Jalen Ramsey. Let’s put the two superstars side by side.
Ramsey, who played for Florida State, was taken with the fifth overall pick in 2016. Surtain, who played for Alabama, was taken as the ninth overall pick in 2021.
Ramsey was a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in his second year. Surtain earned the same honors in his sophomore campaign.
In Ramsey’s best year, which was his second, his team, the Jacksonville Jaguars went 10-6 and lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. In Surtain’s best year, which was his second, his team, the Denver Broncos, went 5-12.
I guess that’s where the comparisons end.
Ramsey would continue being a great player. However, the Jaguars were not able to continue their winning ways. Perhaps, it was because the magic of their quarterback Blake Bortles and their offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett wore off. Bortles got cut and Hackett got fired. It must have felt like deja vu to both as they both got the same treatment from the Broncos years later.
Midway through his fourth year, Ramsey made it clear he no longer wanted to be in Jacksonville. Before the trade deadline in 2019, Ramsey was dealt to the Los Angeles Rams for a first in 2020 and a first and fourth in 2021. He then signed an extension with the Rams and went on to continue his Hall of Fame-level production, which included two All-Pro seasons, four Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl victory.
What does Ramsey get after all of that?
Traded! Well, maybe.
Ramsey is currently rumored to be available again for a potential first-rounder. His value remains shockingly high, which speaks to his incredible talent.
It’s fair to assume, that Surtain is his statistical doppelgänger. This means Surtain lives in rare air. His value, like Ramsey’s, has gone way up.
Will Surtain’s value rise or fall after this upcoming season?
This question is extremely tricky as there doesn’t seem to be any other way to go but to stay at the top or go down.
Surtain is widely regarded as the best corner in the NFL, which implies, right now, he could fetch more for the Broncos than the Jags received for Ramsey.
Let’s acknowledge that the Rams only got a year and a half from Ramsey’s contract forcing them to quickly give him a new deal. Surtain currently has three years left on his deal, which means a team trading for his services has contractual options. In addition, Surtain has no injuries. He is in his absolute physical prime. This fact clearly gives PS2 a significantly higher benefit if traded before the start of the 2023 season.
You don’t have to make a deal before things get rolling in the fall. But let’s not ignore the upside and it all leads to the biggest question.
Are the Broncos in a championship window?
The Jaguars bottomed out after making the AFC Championship Game in 2017. They disintegrated to a 5-11 record in 2018. In 2019, they slightly improved to a 6-10 record but the wheels had fallen off and they needed to rebuild.
The bad feelings of continued losing would dramatically impact their best player. Ramsey only played in three games for the Jags in 2019.
During the second week of the season, Ramsey and head coach Doug Marrone got into a screaming match. Although Ramsey played the next week, he was soon placed on the inactive list after the game to be present for the birth of his daughter. While this was certainly a personal joyous occasion not to be missed, it was also the perfect excuse to get out of Dodge! Things had reached the point of no return between the player and the team. Consequently, he was traded.
There is no drama associated with Surtain.
But, like the Jags, the Broncos are coming off a five-win season. So, is it time to rebuild or are they in a championship window?
The Jags made the decision it was time to start over and recoup value through the draft.
If you truly believe there is confetti coming to Broncos Country, then simply don’t do anything with Surtain. Great corners are hard to find and for now, you have him on the cheap.
But if you don’t believe in Russell Wilson, then your best bet for success is to trade Surtain, and the sooner the better.
What did the Jags get for Ramsey?
In 2020, Jacksonville selected defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson with the 20th overall pick. This was a massive miss as all-world receiver Justin Jefferson was available and chosen two slots later.
In 2021, the Jaguars took Clemson running back Travis Etienne with the 25th overall pick. This was a terrific selection on paper as they paired the talented running back with his college teammate, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was the first overall choice in that year’s draft.
Etienne suffered a major foot injury in pre-season his rookie year that forced him to sit out the entire season. However, he rebounded nicely in 2022, rushing for over 1,100 yards and helping the Jags make the playoffs.
The Jaguars used the 2021 fourth-round pick from the Rams to move up nine spots in a trade with the Rams and take edge rusher, Jordan Smith.
The Ramsey trade gave the Jags the capital to build. Losing gave Jacksonville the ability to take a generational quarterback, as their horrific 1-15 season in 2020 netted them Lawrence in 2021. By trading Ramsey and losing massively with some significant luck that Lawrence was the real deal, they had the perfect combination for a lightning-quick rebuild.
They were in the AFC Championship Game in 2017 then fell apart. But just five years later, they were back in the playoffs with an entirely new crew. The catalyst for change was trading their best player who was a cornerback and hiring a better coaching staff which included Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Peterson.
Is this starting to sound familiar?
Meanwhile, the Rams were in a completely different situation than the Jags. They desperately needed Ramsey to get them over the playoff hump to win a title. The trade, while acrimonious at the time, was the ultimate win-win situation for all parties involved.
So again, I ask, are the Broncos in a championship window?
I don’t think they are.
At some point, the Bills and Chiefs realized they needed a better quarterback. The irony was both teams were strong enough to make the playoffs but lacked a true leader to guide them to a championship. While the Bills have slammed up against an AFC wall that is the Chiefs and Bengals, the Chiefs used this strategy to get future Hall of Fame gunslinger Patrick Mahomes. Consequently, they have won two Super Bowls.
The key to making the playoffs and managing to obtain their future quarterbacks was accumulating capital to move up in the first round. Ironically, the Bills got their capital to move up in 2018 from a deal they did with the Chiefs in 2017. The Chiefs did that deal to move up for Mahomes. This connects these two spectacular players forever.
On Friday, the Carolina Panthers used two firsts and D.J. Moore, an elite receiver, to move from nine to one in this year’s NFL draft.
Who are the Panthers compared to the Broncos?
The Panthers beat the Broncos 23-10 this past year en route to a 7-10 season. They fired their head coach during the season and replaced their interim coach with Frank Reich this winter.
Carolina knows they need a quarterback and they have used their valuable capital to move up. It’s now incumbent on them to properly evaluate all of the incoming talent to make the correct decision. Once they’ve made up their minds, they must do everything they can to develop that young man. There are no guarantees it will work.
If you want a sure thing, bet on the sun setting tonight or the Rockies being out of the playoff race in May.
However, what the Panthers just did in making an aggressive play in terms of draft position, is without a doubt the best strategy for possible success. It gives them the classic cliche of the best chance to win.
The Broncos lost to the Panthers, finishing the season 5-12. They fired their head coach during the season and then replaced their interim coach with Sean Payton. Acquiring Payton meant giving up capital, a first-round draft pick they got from the Dolphins for Bradley Chubb. Famously, it was Chubb whom the Broncos drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2018 over Josh Allen. You know, the guy the Bills used capital to move up in the draft to select.
So why exactly are the Panthers, who had a slightly less pathetic season than the Broncos, in a position to move up to take a quarterback with the first overall selection while the Broncos don’t even have draft picks in the first or second rounds for the second year in a row?
That comes back to Broncos general manager George Paton.
His foolish decision to give away boatloads of capital for Wilson has devastated this once-proud organization. Paton not only gave away the farm to initially obtain Wilson, he then doubled down on his initial bad investment by securing Wilson with a crippling long-term contract.
How somebody can fail so massively and keep their job is beyond my comprehension.
It’s debatable if the Broncos are even in a winning season window. Just making the playoffs would be amazing. But remember the Chiefs and the Bills both moved up to get a quarterback after they had already had playoff-bound teams. When you know, you know. For many, it’s beyond obvious that Wilson isn’t the answer.
It’s also pretty obvious that the one player who can kickstart that change for Denver is Surtain.
Even if Surtain, like Ramsey, goes on to more All-Pro selections and even captures a Super Bowl title, it will still be worth it. Without a young quarterback with an initial favorable five-year contract, it is practically impossible to envision beating the Chiefs, never mind winning a Super Bowl.
Reasonable folks point out the failures of highly drafted quarterbacks as a cautionary tale. They will bore you for hours about the legend of Josh Rosen. If it was up to them, their favorite teams would never draft any signal caller with a high pick. They just assume dudes like Brock Purdy are falling like leaves off aspen trees.
Listening to the football doomsday crew will make you pull the covers over your head. But perhaps, it’s finally time for the Broncos to leap out of bed and bravely enter the ominous draft fray. This is where you have to have faith that the Broncos got it right when they hired Payton.
Fantasy guru and social butterfly Matthew Berry stated that he heard during the NFL combine that the new Broncos coach was looking at this year as a one-year tryout for Wilson.
Payton himself waxed poetic about Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams during the college football season. The star USC quarterback isn’t available until the 2024 NFL Draft. Payton regards Williams so highly that he thinks his potential could justify rearranging the entire draft process. Payton discussed the rare abilities of Williams causing teams to tank on the Colin Cowherd show.
“I think he’s a generational player,” said Payton. “At some point, especially with the relationship our league has in gaming now, we’re going to move to a lottery system in the NFL. This is a player that possibly does that.”
This statement leaves no doubt how much Payton would value and possibly desire Williams to be his quarterback.
However, Williams isn’t the only one who is special in the 2024 draft. North Carolina’s Drake Maye has all the bona fides you would ever want for a future quarterback too.
After that, well, you never know.
The entire football community knew about Bryce Young of Alabama and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State years in advance of this upcoming draft. But other appealing options like Will Levis of Kentucky and Anthony Richardson of Florida are now rising to the top. Who is to say who will be a franchise changer and who will be a bust? But, that’s why you pay coaches and GMs the big bucks to evaluate and develop young players. Only fools look for guarantees.
Don’t forget, Mahomes was the third quarterback taken in the 2017 draft. He is incredible, while Mitch Trubisky, taken ahead of Mahomes, is a bust. Josh Allen was also the third quarterback taken in 2018. Both Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold went ahead of Allen and busted.
As talk show host Dan Patrick often says, “If you are scared, buy a dog.” This is the deep end of the pool and only cowards wear floaties.
The best solution whether Wilson succeeds or fails is to trade Surtain. Perhaps the true destiny of generational corners is to over-perform their relative value and burst through glass ceilings to be used not just to intercept passes but to raise organizations. Only a rare few hold that power. I believe Surtain is that good.
It doesn’t matter what team the Broncos deal with, but the worse the better. Teams that have already invested in young quarterbacks will now be looking to build around their generational talent with other generational talents. The market will inevitably be strong for PS2.
The Broncos can get greedy if they want. It’s possible to try to win this year with Surtain only to trade him next offseason. But, boy oh boy, if you are going to take such a high risk in avoiding a significant injury, you better have a four-leaf clover shoved up your keister.
The bottom line
If Surtain is really that good, then I am currently wrong. He would be the best player on the Broncos because he would have the most value. Clearly, he would have made the right decision to play corner, not receiver. Caden Sterns would be more than welcome to laugh in my face if he’s on the team in the fall.
But, the Broncos owe it to the fans to do something hard. There is a sacrifice to reach the football pinnacle. Broncos CEO Greg Penner needs to get out of the golf simulator and make Paton explain to him why Ramsey was worth more to the Jags when he left the team than when he was on the team.
Hey, Greg, make sure you ask the football Einsteins you’ve surrounded yourself with why Ramsey is about to be traded again for another first-round pick. Penner needs to clearly understand that exceptional value is found in trades between teams, not between hash marks.
The Broncos have an incredible opportunity and it hinges on getting rid of their pride and joy. Don’t blow it, again.
After this story was published the Rams traded Jalen Ramsey to Miami for a third round pick and tight end Hunter Long. Ramsey is only 28-years-old and is as accomplished as any corner in the league. He has three years left on his contract, but his money in his final two years is not guaranteed. The Rams will eat 19.6 million in dead money on the 2023 salary cap and save 5.6 million. Ramsey was the only core member of the Super Bowl 2021 champs to not sign a new extension or rework his deal. He is the third highest paid corner at 20 million AAV. The Rams needed to rebuild so they moved on from a generational corner. The Dolphins now have the option to do a new deal with Ramsey or use him as a one year rental as they see themselves, rightfully so, in a championship window.