No team has been a more active seller than the Broncos over the past few years. Denver parted with three of its Super Bowl 50 cornerstones — Demaryius Thomas (2018), Emmanuel Sanders (2019) and Von Miller (2021) — and moved Bradley Chubb last year. The team used the Miller and Chubb picks to form the Russell Wilson–Sean Payton partnership.
While Wilson is early in the process of bouncing back from a wildly disappointing Broncos debut season, the team started this one 0-3. Denver’s defense, easily its most reliable unit in the years since Peyton Manning‘s retirement, has taken a massive step back. Since 2000, no defense has produced a worst EPA figure since 2000, The Athletic’s Mike Sando notes (subscription required). Even though the Broncos rallied from 21-point deficit to beat the Bears in Week 4, Vance Joseph‘s defense is under a microscope.
Despite this unexpected freefall defensively, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes the Broncos are not looking to build for the future just yet by becoming an early seller. The team’s status as a true seller figures to hinge on how it performs over the next few weeks. Before the Oct. 31 deadline, the Broncos face the Jets, Packers and will check off both their Chiefs matchups — the second of which, the home tilt — coming two days before the deadline.
The Broncos discussed Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton with teams this offseason, holding out for a first-round pick for Jeudy and a second-rounder for Sutton. No such offers emerged, and the homegrown draftees remain Denver’s top two wideouts. While Marvin Mims has been effective when utilized — to the point the second-rounder is the team’s leading receiver (242 yards) — he has only played 27% of the team’s offensive snaps.
Denver also rosters longtime starters in Justin Simmons and Garett Bolles; both would stand to generate interest. No trade rumors have surfaced around these cornerstones, but if the team struggles this month, players outside of Jeudy and Sutton figure to come up for a team that has shown no hesitation in selling. John Elway dealt Thomas and Sanders, but current GM George Paton was at the wheel when the Miller and Chubb trades transpired.
Wilson’s performance will naturally lead the way in determining if the Broncos want to begin collecting assets for 2024 and beyond. Through four games, the scrutinized QB sits third in the NFL in passer rating, second in touchdown passes (nine) and sixth in yards per attempt (7.7). QBR slots the 2022 trade acquisition 19th, however. While the Wilson-Payton rapport has come up many times as a topic, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini notes the duo are “flourishing” early in their relationship. Wilson has made strides in recovering from a poor fit with Nathaniel Hackett, but if the Broncos’ defense cannot get back on track, the team’s post-deadline nucleus might be worse.
One change that came on defense in Week 4 involved Randy Gregory, whom the team benched in Week 4, as Denver7’s Troy Renck observes. Through four games, Pro Football Focus ranks Gregory as a bottom-10 edge defender. Although Denver’s defense as a whole endured one of the worst showings in NFL history, as the Dolphins became the first team since 1966 to score 70 points, Gregory received some punishment in the wake of the rout. The Broncos benched Gregory despite having Baron Browning on their reserve/PUP list. The team gave Gregory a five-year, $70MM deal in 2022 but saw him miss much of last season due to a knee injury. Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper served as the Broncos’ first-string edges in Chicago.