Speaking to the media one day after the Denver Broncos’ 70-10 destruction at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, Sean Payton said no coaches or players are in immediate danger of losing their jobs despite the club’s 0-3 start.
“No,” Payton said, via Mike Klis of 9News. “And that wouldn’t be something I’d share on a conference call if that ever were the case. So, no, to answer your question.”
Still, if Denver loses a few more games, we could see Payton parting ways with anything that isn’t tied down. And if the Broncos lose to one or both of the winless Chicago Bears or the Zach Wilson-led New York Jets over the next two weeks, a true firesale might be on the table.
Which Denver contributors could be on the block before the NFL’s Oct. 31 deadline?
Denver Broncos Trade Candidates and Landing Spots
Payton has been here before. The New Orleans Saints opened the season with a 0-3 record under Payton in 2007, 2015, and 2016. All three teams finished 7-9, which is probably the best-case scenario for the 2023 Broncos.
Sean Payton: “You take a butt-whupping like that, you find out about everyone.” #9sports
— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) September 25, 2023
Let’s run through Denver’s most attractive trade candidates and identify their best landing spots around the NFL.
RB Samaje Perine | Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens just can’t seem to stay healthy. Baltimore was without several critical players in Week 3, including running back J.K. Dobbins, who ruptured his Achilles in Week 1.
Hill could play a third-down receiving role for the Ravens once he returns, and he might be a better fit for Todd Monken’s offense than Edwards. But Hill has primarily been a special teamer throughout his five-year NFL career.
Perine would give Baltimore a back capable of handling receiving work and pass protection and create an outlet option for Lamar Jackson.
WR Jerry Jeudy | New England Patriots
Jeudy’s inclusion in trade rumors predates Payton’s arrival in Denver, as the former first-round pick’s name was bandied about at the 2022 trade deadline.
Talks continued throughout the offseason, but the Broncos ultimately held onto Jeudy while exercising his fifth-year option for 2024.
While Jeudy missed Week 1 with a hamstring injury and has dealt with repeated health issues throughout his career, Denver shouldn’t have any trouble finding a taker.
The Patriots were reportedly among the teams with the most interest in Jeudy this offseason and could stand to upgrade over DeVante Parker.
WR Courtland Sutton | Detroit Lions
Sutton probably won’t be very easy to trade. His $14 million salary is fully guaranteed this season, and he’s never looked as good as he did in 2019 when he somehow posted a 72-1,112-6 line while catching passes from Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, and Brandon Allen.
Excellent job by Courtland Sutton to dig out this low target. Strong technique here. pic.twitter.com/Lh4P3PM9kt
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 25, 2023
The Lions feel like they need a field-stretching threat. Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond can play that role, and Detroit hopes Jameson Williams will fill that void when he returns from his six-game suspension.
Sutton would be an upgrade over Reynolds and Raymond and allow the Lions to boast an above-average “11” personnel package when Williams gets back.
TE Greg Dulcich | Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals somewhat surprisingly opted against drafting a tight end in 2023 after losing Hayden Hurst to the Carolina Panthers. Instead, they merely signed former Minnesota Viking Irv Smith Jr., whose promise has far exceeded his contributions at the NFL level.
Dulcich is currently on injured reserve but will likely be available by Week 5. Payton signed his former Saints tight end, Adam Trautman, over the offseason and could be amenable to moving Dulcich, who flashed after being selected in the third round of the 2022 draft.
OT Garett Bolles | New York Jets
While the Jets may need to devote their existing resources to finding a new quarterback, their offensive line also needs work.
New York’s front five was going to be an issue even with Aaron Rodgers under center, and Wilson’s atrocious pocket awareness makes the OL even more of a concern.
Gang Green sent incumbent left tackle Duane Brown to IR before Week 3, then deployed Mekhi Becton on Wilson’s blindside while shifting Alijah Vera-Tucker to right tackle.
Bolles has never come close to replicating his outstanding 2020 campaign, but he’d be an improvement for the Jets. His $13.75 million base salary could present a barrier to a trade, though.
C Lloyd Cushenberry | Tennessee Titans
Cushenberry will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024, and the Broncos haven’t made any noise about extending him.
There’s always time to work out a deal before next March, but Denver could trade Cushenberry this year rather than letting him walk and hoping to collect a late-round compensatory pick in 2025.
Few teams have a genuine center vacancy at the moment, but injuries could create needs for clubs as the season progresses. For now, we’re sending Cushenberry to the Titans, who are using former guard Aaron Brewer at the pivot.
Tennessee has one of the worst offensive lines in the league – Cushenberry would at least help raise the unit’s floor.
EDGE Frank Clark | Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack on their roster and still can’t get any pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Los Angeles ranks 28th in pressure rate (10.9%) this season, ahead of only the Bears, Broncos, and Las Vegas Raiders.
Frank Clark hasn’t played since suffering a hip injury in Week 1, but he should return shortly. He’s not a world-beater, but he’d give the Chargers much-needed depth. Bosa and backup edge rusher Chris Rumph II both missed Sunday’s game with injuries.
DT Mike Purcell | Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys already have a pair of nose tackles in Johnathan Hankins (re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason) and first-round pick Mazi Smith, but they’re still getting gashed against the run.
Dallas has given up at least 120 rushing yards in every game this season and ranks dead last in rushing success rate allowed.
Purcell won’t provide much in the way of pass rush, but the 6’3 “, 330-pound veteran could clog space in the middle of the Cowboys’ defensive line.
CB K’Waun Williams | Philadelphia Eagles
Like Dulcich, Williams is also on IR, but he’s expected to return after a mandated four-game absence. He’s been a high-quality option in the slot for his entire career, during which time he’s seen action with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Broncos.
Maddox's direct backup in the slot — Zech McPhearson — already suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during the preseason.
Mario Goodrich played 39 snaps in the slot last night, allowing 6 receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown on 6 targets, per PFF https://t.co/8aiE6Opmfw
— Dallas Robinson (@DallasDRobinson) September 15, 2023
The Eagles could desperately use another option in the slot. Avonte Maddox tore his pectoral muscle in Week 2 and could miss the rest of the season. Maddox’s backup, Zech McPhearson, went down with a season-ending Achilles injury in the preseason.
On Sunday night, Philadelphia shifted James Bradberry into the slot in nickel packages while inserting Josh Josh on the outside. Williams would allow Bradberry to stick a full-time outside CB role.
S Justin Simmons | New York Giants
Simmons has a $14.4 million base salary this season and couldn’t play in Week 3 due to a hip injury. Given his paycheck and age (30), Simmons could be hard to move, but he’s still one of the NFL’s best safeties when healthy.
Jason Pinnock earned the Giants’ starting safety job opposite Xavier McKinney following a strong offseason, but he’s been underwhelming in coverage and as a tackler this year.
New York would probably need to solidify themselves as a contender (and find a way for Simmons’ salary to fit on their cap) for a trade to make sense, but Simmons would undoubtedly represent an upgrade.