Should the Denver Broncos trade away one of their outside linebackers?
That is the question.
This is the debate.
The Broncos’ outside linebacker room has been completely revamped over the past 24 months.
Two years ago, Denver’s two starting edge rushers were former top five picks in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. After trading both Miller and Chubb away for a combined first, second and third-round pick, the Broncos’ outside linebacker room looks drastically different entering the 2023 season.
As it stands, Denver has seven outside linebackers on their roster. Heading into the team’s offseason conditioning program, Randy Gregory and Baron Browning project to be the starters, with Nik Bonitto, Jonathon Cooper, Jake Martin, Christopher Allen and Aaron Patrick all competing for two to three backup jobs.
Less than a month to the draft, the Broncos only have five picks. Could they make a deal to acquire more picks, or a different position, by trading one of these outside linebackers? Should George Paton and Sean Payton make that move?
The Broncos SHOULD trade away an outside linebacker — Henry
The Broncos are in a strange position at outside linebacker; they have a half-dozen players worthy of a roster spot, but the group was the weakest unit on its defense last season.
So what should they do? Clear space and add talent.
Most mocksters have the Broncos targeting edge rushing talent in the early portion of the draft (well, early by Denver’s standards) and they have good reason; the Broncos finished in the bottom 10 of the NFL in sacks last year. But if the Broncos use a third-round pick on an edge rusher, who will lose their roster spot when they need to cut the group to five players?
Randy Gregory can’t stay healthy, but he’s the Broncos’ best pass rusher.
Baron Browning flashed as a starter last season and figures to be the starter again in 2023..
Nik Bonitto showed nothing as a rookie, but moving on from a second-rounder after one season is bad business.
Jonathon Cooper has started 14 games for the Broncos in his two NFL seasons.
The Broncos gave up assets to bring in Jake Martin’s three-year, $13 million contract last season, and he was a key piece of their rotation in the second half of the season.
Aaron Patrick made the opening day 53-man roster last season and was a key special teams player before tearing his ACL.
Chris Allen was the Broncos’ highest-paid undrafted free agent before he tore his ACL in camp.
The Broncos have a wealth of players at outside linebacker and holding onto all of them would be a bad idea. If Denver could move one of their depth pieces like Jonathon Cooper or Jake Martin, they could add much-needed draft capital and hardly feel the effects. If they can find a fourth-round pick for Nik Bonitto, they should probably consider pulling the trigger there, too.
If George Paton wanted to get crazy, he could move two outside linebackers, draft on with one of his third-round picks, and have a solid, high-upside group.
The Broncos should NOT trade away an outside linebacker — Zac
Outside linebacker is arguably the Broncos’ biggest need on the defensive side of the ball, so making the position even weaker by trading away some of the assets doesn’t make a lick of sense unless the team adds a player in free agency before making a trade.
Barring the team adding a player before making a deal, this idea seems semi-reckless.
The Broncos simply just can’t afford to move on from Randy Gregory or Baron Browning. For the Broncos to have a great defense, they have to get great production out of one of them, if not both. Last year, the two played in a total of 20 games. Neither player has played a full season in the NFL, so the Broncos shouldn’t count on both to stay healthy for the entirety of the 2023 season. That puts extra priority on their backups.
On top of that, the Broncos would likely lose significant value in nearly every trade.
No team would be willing to trade for Christopher Allen or Aaron Patrick. The Broncos acquired Jake Martin by flipping a fourth-round pick for a fifth-round pick, so his trade value is minimal. Denver could possibly flip Jonathan Cooper for a seventh-round pick, which would be the same round they drafted him in two years ago. But good luck finding a better player than Cooper in the seventh round. If George Paton decided to move on from Nik Bonitto, the team would maybe get an early Day 3 pick back in return, a far cry from the second-round pick they used on him last year.
Because of all of that, dumping one of the team’s backup OLBs for barely any return doesn’t make any sense since the Broncos will likely be turning to their backups on multiple occasions during the season. And they can’t lose Gregory or Browning.