After posting a breakout campaign in his sophomore season, wide receiver Courtland Sutton looked well on his way to establishing himself as a foundational piece of the Denver Broncos. Just a few seasons later, he could be on the move. If the Broncos were to move on from the former second-round pick, where could Sutton land?
Would the Denver Broncos Move on From Courtland Sutton?
Following the NFL Combine, NBC Sports’ Matthew Berry wrote that “the Broncos are quietly shopping Courtland Sutton. Not actively pushing him, but definitely trying to see if there’s a trade market for him, and if they get a decent offer, [Denver] would move him.”
Now, let’s be direct about something upfront. Berry is clear that this isn’t him reporting something first-hand. He explained that his post-Combine column includes “unsubstantiated rumors and tidbits [he] picked up mixed in with [his] interpretation.”
But that’s often the nature of the NFL Combine. General managers, head coaches, scouts, reporters, and media personalities alike flood the coffee shops, restaurants, and bars of Indianapolis and talk shop with one another.
It’s where deals are negotiated (think Derek Carr and the New Orleans Saints), trades are constructed, and rumors are leaked. These “rumors, gossip, and highly-educated guesses,” as Berry calls them, often lead to well-founded information, and this tidbit on Sutton may be just that.
With that in mind, why might Denver move on from one of its top offensive weapons?
Following the 2019 season, Sutton looked to be one of the hottest up-and-coming young wideouts in the NFL. He was fresh off a 16-game slate in which he put up over 1,110 yards and six touchdowns catching passes from a rotating cast of QBs featuring a washed-up Joe Flacco, a rookie Drew Lock, and career backup Brandon Allen.
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Then, disaster struck. Sutton tore his ACL just one game into the 2020 season. But the Broncos, knowing Sutton’s potential, inked him to a four-year, $60,800,00 contract anyway.
The 6’4″ pass catcher has played every game but two since, though his production has been lacking. In 2021, coming off the knee injury, Sutton looked sluggish at times, compiling just 776 yards and two scores in 17 games.
In 2022, the entire Denver offense floundered with Russell Wilson at the helm, and Sutton was no different. Though his peak ability shined through in spurts, and certainly more so than in 2021, the production remained largely the same: 829 yards and two touchdowns.
With new head coach Sean Payton at the helm and Denver in need of extra draft capital after the Wilson trade, moving Sutton could be in the cards.
What would a recipient be taking on contractually? The 27-year-old wideout has three years left on his deal with $14 million, $13 million, and $13.5 million owed, respectively. That’s a relative bargain in today’s wide receiver market. So it’s feasible that Denver could receive a reasonably high return for a mid-to-late 20s pass catcher with plenty in the tank.
But which suitors make the most sense?
Courtland Sutton Landing Spots
New England Patriots
If the New England Patriots are truly all in on making the Mac Jones experiment work (emphasis on the “if”), the team needs to surround him with better weapons. With Jakobi Meyers set to hit free agency, New England has DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, and Kendrick Bourne atop the depth chart.
Bourne and Parker are both cut candidates, given their minimal or nonexistent dead cap hits and measly 2022 production, and there are few other exciting options on the roster. The Patriots have ample cap space and a plethora of draft picks with which to make this trade work.
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Even if the team wants to keep Parker and Thornton on the outside, Sutton has enough position versatility to play a “big slot” role. Coming out of the draft in 2018, he was one of the most athletic prospects at the position, positing strong agility numbers, including a 6.57 3-cone time.
There’s no way the Patriots are keeping pace with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins with New England’s current cast of characters, no matter how much more competent a play-caller Bill O’Brian is than Matt Patricia.
It seems like the Baltimore Ravens always need a wide receiver. As stellar as the team’s personnel record has been over the past two decades, wideout is the one position at which the Ravens can’t seem to find a hit.
Even general manager Eric DeCosta expressed exasperation at the team’s recent struggles at the position, saying, “if I had an answer [explaining Baltimore’s struggles drafting wide receivers], that means I would probably have some better receivers, I guess.” The comment didn’t go over well with some of the team’s players, but DeCosta isn’t wrong.
Atop the depth chart for 2023 is 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman, who’s shown glimmers of high-end potential but hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Alongside Bateman are depth players in Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, and James Proche. There’s no question the Ravens need to add to the roster in a big way this offseason.
In terms of cap space, Baltimore has more than enough to make it work, sitting inside the top 10 in available money. The Ravens are a bit capital-strapped in terms of draft picks, owning just five, but DeCosta is savvy when it comes to trades. And it’s not like Sutton will command first-round value. The two sides could make it work.
New York Giants
Talk about a team that needs some help in the pass-catching department. The New York Giants roster is barren when it comes to wide receivers.
Former Buffalo Bills practice squad WR Isaiah Hodgins was a pleasant surprise and is likely in the team’s future plans, but my goodness does Big Blue need some support around him. Kenny Golladay is already on his way out the door, 2022 second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson is coming off a torn ACL, and the next man up under contract is David Sills.
As of this writing, the Giants have some other highly pressing needs in figuring out the futures of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, but surrounding whoever is lining up in the offensive backfield next year with a competent set of hands is a must. Sutton would immediately become the Giants’ WR1 upon arrival.
Giants GM Joe Schoen just saw the dividends that Philadelphia Eagles head man Howie Roseman reaped after taking a swing on former Tennessee Titans star A.J. Brown and may want to follow in Roseman’s footsteps. Now, Sutton is not Brown, but he’s a high-end talent who has a higher ceiling than he was able to reach in Denver last season.
Can New York afford it? You betcha. They’re sitting top-three in cap space. What about draft picks? The Giants have those too. The team’s list of selections is longer than a CVS receipt. The more I think about it, the more this seems like the most obvious landing spot on the list.
Let’s stay in the NFC East. We all know Jerry Jones likes to make splashes, and though a swing for Sutton wouldn’t be a massive cannonball, it’ll certainly make enough waves to get Cowboys fans more enthused about the state of the pass-catching corps.
Dak Prescott and his unit were highly effective in 2022, scoring the fifth-most touchdowns in the league. But something about the offense still seemed off, especially through the air. Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb did the majority of the heavy lifting, and more support is needed on the outside.
I’m sure the team hopes veteran Michael Gallup will look improved another year removed from his torn ACL, but pushing all of the chips in on him and highly disappointing 2022 third-round pick Jalen Tolbert would be foolish given the window currently open in Dallas. The Cowboys need a reliable WR2 to take pressure off of Lamb, and they need it now.
Cap space could be a minor hiccup, as Dallas has one of the toughest situations in the league, but Carr’s signing with the Saints (and, really, New Orleans’ moves over the last half-decade) emphasize that money can always be moved around when necessary in the NFL. As for draft picks, Dallas has more than enough to make it work.
In the Cowboys’ high-powered offense, Sutton should have a good chance of returning to his Pro Bowl form.