OCTOBER 3: Smith will become the latest former Saint to head to Denver, with Klis adding the signing is a go. It is a practice squad deal. The former New Orleans third-round pick, who played four seasons under Payton, will rejoin his longtime coach. Broncos OC Joe Lombardi was also in New Orleans during part of Smith’s tenure.
SEPTEMBER 29: The Broncos dealt with some early season injuries to their wide receiving corps this year, and though things are finally starting to look up, the team won’t likely be turning down the opportunity to add some quality depth. According to 9NEWS’s Mike Klis, Denver is expected to sign newly available wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith early next week.
As the season opened, the Broncos knew that they would be without Tim Patrick (dealing with yet another season-ending injury) and second-year undrafted wideout Jalen Virgil (season-ending meniscus tear). The team also waived former second-round pick KJ Hamler as he struggled to deal with his continuous injury troubles. On top of that, Jerry Jeudy would miss some time as he worked his way back from a hamstring injury.
With Jeudy out, Denver called on practice squad wideout, and former first-round pick, Phillip Dorsett to fill in alongside Courtland Sutton, Brandon Johnson, rookie second-round pick Marvin Mims, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. At this point, Jeudy has returned and got a healthy workload in the team’s recent one-sided loss to the Dolphins. Still, the absences of Patrick and Virgil make a potential strength on the team a potential liability.
With much less margin for error, the Broncos look to be turning to Smith. Smith has been dealing with some injury issues of his own. A training camp groin injury held Smith out to the point that he was placed on injured reserve to start the season. With the return of Michael Thomas and the continued emergence of second-year receivers Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed, the Saints released Smith from the IR. As younger players were showing more potential, Smith’s role in the offense had become unclear and his inability to stay on the field cost him a roster spot.
Denver wasn’t the only team to show interest in the veteran wide receiver, though. Multiple teams reportedly stepped in to express their interest in the free agent, but signs, for now, are pointing to Mile High. Likely the employment of head coach Sean Payton has some influence on the signing. Payton hasn’t shied away from bringing his guys in as Smith will be rejoining former New Orleans teammates in Humphrey and kicker Wil Lutz.
The interest surrounding Smith’s free agency points to the likelihood that he was close to coming off IR before being released by the Saints. We could perhaps see Smith making an impact on the Broncos’ offense in his first week with the team if that turns out to be true.