Latest On Broncos, Courtland Sutton

In what has become standard operating procedure for wide receivers carrying contract issues, a number of high-profile targets — Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins — have not shown up for OTAs. Courtland Sutton appears in that boat as well.

Sutton has been away from the Broncos during the pre-OTAs portion of their voluntary workout schedule, training in Florida. That appears to still be the case as OTAs get underway, per the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel. Sutton has expressed a desire for a contract upgrade, and the seventh-year veteran may be amenable to a straight raise.

Re-emerging as Denver’s No. 1 wide receiver last season, Sutton remains tied to his four-year, $60MM deal. No wideout has been tied to a higher AAV in Broncos history, but Sutton’s contract qualifies as team-friendly now. Agreed to during the 2021 season, Sutton’s deal was finalized before a receiver market boom the following offseason. His AAV now checks in at No. 23, counting Higgins’ franchise tag, at the position.

That contract calls for a $13MM base salary in 2024; just $2MM of that total is guaranteed. Sutton is angling for a new deal — one the Broncos are unlikely to hand out due to two seasons remaining on his current pact — but’s Jeremy Fowler said during a recent SportsCenter appearance (via Sutton would like to bump his salary up into the $15-$16MM range. No progress is coming out of these talks, Fowler adds.

Players regularly seek extensions when their contracts fall out of step with the market or when existing deals have already paid out guarantees. Sutton probably falls into both camps, but it would be interesting if a raise on his 2024 salary would bring about a resolution. The Broncos took a similar step with Chris Harris back in 2019, after the team had given Kareem Jackson a deal with a higher per-year salary. Denver gave its decorated cornerback a straight raise, bumping his 2019 pay from $8.9MM to $12.05MM.

Some clear differences between that situation and Sutton’s exist, however. En route to All-Decade honors, Harris had been the NFL’s top slot corner for several years ahead of those negotiations. The Broncos also authorized a pure raise for a player in a contract year. That agreement also came during John Elway‘s GM tenure. Sutton, an Elway-era draftee who signed his extension in GM George Paton‘s first season, has two years remaining on his deal and has not approached the heights Harris reached during his Broncos tenure. A decision-maker not around for either his draft arrival or extension, Sean Payton, now carries the most weight in the organization.

A raise would set a precedent under Payton, and teams generally prefer extensions to notable pay bumps. While Sutton has four 700-plus-yard seasons on his resume, 2019 represents his only 1,000-yard season. The Broncos are not expected to trade the 6-foot-4 wideout, who is recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Teams called the Broncos ahead of the draft. The former second-round pick does carry some leverage; the team stands to need him as a reliable target to break in Bo Nix.

Sutton, 28, profiles as Denver’s best bet for steady receiving production this season, though the team has added a few pieces under Payton — from Josh Reynolds to draft choices Marvin Mims and Troy Franklin. While Sutton sits as the highest-floor player in the Broncos’ pass-catching corps, the two recent draftees’ development will play a role in the veteran’s Denver future. A trade-rumor mainstay, Sutton is tied to a $13.5MM nonguaranteed 2025 salary.

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