Broncos Made Call About Moving Up In Round 1; Team Eyed TE Help In Offseason

Sean Payton admitted he was a central part of a smokescreen effort that centered on Broncos interest in moving up for a quarterback. This buzz certainly may have influenced the Vikings to trade up one spot (via the Jets), and the effort also involved Denver brass making calls about moving up the board.

The Bears heard from the Broncos about No. 9 overall,’s Jeremy Fowler notes. This would add a layer to one of the more interesting smokescreens of recent years. One pick later, the Vikings moved from No. 11 to No. 10, sending the Jets fourth- and fifth-round picks to climb up and lock in J.J. McCarthy draft real estate.

This did clear the runway for the Broncos to land Bo Nix, their long-rumored target, though it helped an AFC team in the form of Day 3 draft capital. Neither the Bears nor Jets were candidates to draft a quarterback, and Payton said he viewed the Vikings as more interested in McCarthy than Nix. The Broncos are believed to have ranked the Oregon prospect as this draft’s third-best QB.

The Broncos indeed became enamored with Nix, with Fowler adding the five-year college starter was the team’s “guy the whole way.” Nix, 24, will be expected to either begin the season as the Broncos’ starter or take over from either Jarrett Stidham or Zach Wilson early. Seeing as he spent a season in Payton’s system, Stidham is on track — per 9News’ Mike Klis — to see starter work to open OTAs. Though, the primary Broncos QB storyline will be Nix’s progress in Payton’s system as the offseason turns into training camp. Stidham’s two-year, $10MM deal includes only $1MM in guaranteed 2024 salary.

Also entering the draft with a quarterback need, the Raiders lurking at No. 13 influenced the Broncos to not attempt to trade down for Nix but rather to stay at 12 and pull the trigger. This prompted many to label the pick a reach. The Broncos had interesting options had they not opted to fill their most glaring need. Brock Bowers and Laiatu Latu remained on the board. Denver was among the teams to clear Latu on his pre-draft physical, Fowler adds, noting the team would have given strong consideration to the UCLA edge rusher had it not determined Nix needed to be the pick at 12.

Latu met with the Broncos during the pre-draft process; Bowers did not. But the Georgia tight end would have filled an apparent need for the Broncos, who have seen their top receiving tight end — Greg Dulcich — run into repeated hamstring trouble. Hamstring issues have caused the 2022 third-round pick to miss extensive time in both his pro seasons, leading to four IR trips already, and Klis adds the Broncos wanted to come out of this offseason with a tight end addition. Nothing has transpired on this front, though.

Specifically, the Broncos were hoping to acquire another receiving tight end. The Raiders ended up with Bowers at No. 13, despite having traded up for Michael Mayer (albeit under a previous regime) early in last year’s second round. The Broncos did not view the free agent market as lining up with their budget, Klis adds. The market also saw two of its top names — Hunter Henry, Dalton Schultz — re-sign before free agency began.

Ex-Broncos first-rounder Noah Fant stayed with the Seahawks (two years, $21MM) but was available during the legal tampering period. Falcons cut Jonnu Smith landed with the Dolphins for just two years and $8.4MM, while the Bengals scooped up Mike Gesicki for just $2.5MM. Gerald Everett joined the Bears on a two-year, $12MM deal, while Hayden Hurst followed ex-Broncos FA target (during Nathaniel Hackett‘s offseason as HC) Will Dissly to the Chargers.

While the Broncos circled back to edge rusher in the third round (Utah’s Jonah Elliss), they did not select a tight end. The team re-signed ex-Saints cog Adam Trautman on a two-year, $7.5MM deal. Trautman led Broncos tight ends with just 204 receiving yards last season, highlighting Dulcich’s absence.

Beyond Logan Thomas, the market is fairly dry for receiving TEs. This points to Dulcich, who totaled 411 receiving yards as a rookie but played in two games last season, having another genuine opportunity to hold this job — if he can stay healthy.

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