Broncos ‘wide open’ for trade up in the first round

Apr 19, 2024, 2:12 AM | Updated: 2:13 am

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A Broncos trade up in the first round of the NFL Draft that begins next Thursday remains something that Sean Payton considers to be a realistic possibility.

“That certainly is a possibility and then it’s how much you can palate,” Broncos coach Sean Payton said Thursday at his team’s pre-draft press conference.

In other words, how much you can stomach. What range is too far? What price is too high? Is sacrificing first-round picks in 2025 and 2026 as part of a trade up from No. 12 into the top four picks unreasonable? And what if a team entertaining a trade with the Broncos wants the Broncos’ best player and most tradeable asset — 2022 All-Pro Pat Surtain?

Recent history of trades up the draft board to the degree that might be required of the Broncos is a) not favorable to the team moving up and b) shows that the team moving up — especially for a quarterback — must pay a premium that ensures the deal would represent a value deficit via any trade-value chart.

But that being said, it depends where those future picks are.

Trading 2025 and 2026 first-round choices would be a classic bet on themselves. Indeed, it would be a chance to roll the dice, spin that wheel, double down on a lucky deal.

Of course, as Carolina showed last year, that can explode in your face, which is why the Chicago Bears have the No. 1 overall pick next Thursday.

“You’re dealing with unknown values. We say it’s a first-[round choice], but the difference between 4 and 24 is pretty significant,” Payton said. “So there’s a lot that goes into that.

“Then George [Paton] and the analytics teams, they’ll be able to give us a history of, ‘All right, in the last five years, this is what it looks like. We’ve seen it in Chicago, San Francisco.’ [There are] different landmarks from where they’re traveling.”


Making that daring trade up for a quarterback would not only define this year’s draft for the Broncos — but the near future, as well. It would likely be the pivotal moment of the tenures of both Paton and Payton. The success or failure of their tenures would, above all, be predicated on the development and performance of that quarterback.

“I would just say if it’s a player that you think can change the landscape of your organization moving forward, — like a quarterback — then you do whatever it takes to get him,” Paton said.

Paton did — in a manner of speaking — two years ago when he traded for Russell Wilson. It didn’t work out, and the Broncos were left with a gaping $85-million crater in their salary cap to be spread over two years.

But at least trading up for a Round 1 QB wouldn’t lead to a cap crisis, with that passer on a rookie contract.

“If there’s consensus in the building, a love in the building, you’re aggressive and you try to get him. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get him, but you try. So we’re open to everything. We’re wide open.”

But the love from Sean Payton matters most.

“But then, every now and then during the draft Sean will say, ‘I really want this player. Let’s go get him,’ but that’s the extent of it,” Paton said.

And if Payton really wants a quarterback, the only question left for the Broncos is whether they have enough ammunition to pull off an audacious deal that likely determines the course of the franchise for the next few years — and puts the legacy of Payton himself on the line.

No pressure, fellas.

But a trade up would be the ultimate bet on themselves.

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