So there you have it. After months and months of speculation, the Denver Broncos drafted Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II in the first round on Thursday night.
It may not have been the pick that many fans wanted, especially with Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields still on the board, so it comes as no surprise there is a general sense of frustration throughout the fanbase in the aftermath.
But let me remind you — this offseason is far from over. In fact, we are exactly 132 days away from the start of the regular season. A lot can still happen over that amount of time, but first, let’s talk about why the pick was made.
A Future-Focused Pick
There are a lot of reasons why Surtain was the pick last night. By far the biggest reason of them all is the depth at the position beyond the 2021 season. Largely because it’s been seven years since the Broncos invested a first or second-round pick into a defensive back (Bradley Roby in 2014).
The team was in need of an injection of young talent at this position. After this season, Ronald Darby, Justin Simmons, and Michael Ojemudia are the only players under contract at the defensive back positions. Surtain could effectively step in and become the same type of cornerstone player at cornerback that Simmons has been at safety for the last five seasons.
Yes, for this season, the team is already pretty set at cornerback. But as we saw in 2020, the lack of depth at this position can severely expose a team once injuries start to pile up. And let’s not forget, all three of the Broncos' projected starting corners have worrisome injury histories.
But above all...
Loaded Up on Valuable Trade Assets
On paper, the Broncos are very deep at both cornerback and wide receiver. And fortunately for Denver, most teams in the league can typically use another corner or receiver, making them fairly easy to package as a part of a trade.
Let’s just say that a veteran QB was to become available at some point. Previously, the rumors were that Denver would need to include as many as three first-round picks on top of a couple of 'blue-chip' type defensive players (young guys with long-term upside).
So what would that mean for Denver? Throw in guys like Bradley Chubb or Dre’Mont Jones, two guys that I don’t think many fans would be all too keen on giving up, especially both at the same time.
But with Surtain now in the fold, you might be able to instead include players like Michael Ojemudia or even Bryce Callahan in a potential trade. Now, of course, those guys aren’t going to carry nearly the same value as a Chubb, but I would imagine given how well 2020 third-round pick Ojemudia played in his rookie season last year, there would at least be a decent market for his services.
And then at receiver, the Broncos could package a guy like Tim Patrick, who looked like a WR2 last year when filling in for injured Courtland Sutton. The team is unlikely to be able to afford to keep Patrick beyond this season anyways.
It’s not always this simple — but perhaps including one of the team’s cornerbacks in a potential track package could now eliminate the need for the team to include a guy like Chubb to get a deal done, which would clearly be a huge plus.
Fans Should Remain Patient
As I mentioned above, there is still a long way to go until the start of the regular season and a lot can still happen at the quarterback position.
Broncos Country went through a series of emotional ups and downs with the whole Aaron Rodgers situation prior to the start of the draft. There is clearly a mutual interest between him and Denver, and according to a number of reports, a deal was very close to being run through the league office.
What was the hangup? Well, it could have been a number of things. Maybe the Green Bay Packers just got cold feet? Maybe the Packers just weren’t ready to make a trade of that significance right in the heat of draft day?
Or maybe it had to do with financials?
If the Packers trade Rodgers before June 1, it would result in $38.35 million total dead money for them this season. However, a post-June 1 trade would reduce that 2021 cap charge, pushing his $17.2M of base salary into 2022.
What does that mean?
It means if the Packers simply wait a little more than a month, they can save tens of millions in cap space this season just by trading him at a later date.
Also, let’s not forget the Deshaun Watson investigations still need to be played out. If by chance he gets cleared of these ongoing lawsuits, maybe he all the sudden becomes available for trade again?
And guess which team would be the top suitor if either of these scenarios were to become reality?
At the end of the day, Surtain will likely go on to be an excellent selection for the Broncos. He could really be a franchise cornerstone for this team for years to come. He has the size, tools, and bloodline to be a successful NFL player.
Yes, the pick could have been a quarterback. But Broncos Country, let’s take the advice of (ironically) Rodgers himself and R-E-L-A-X. There is still plenty of time for moves to be made.
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