It's the beginning of the beginning for the Denver Broncos, and while the timing isn't conventional, they are letting the team know that it's time to step up or you are not going to be part of the future.
That was the case for Brandon Lloyd, who had 77 receptions and 1,448 yards a year ago, and through the first five games of 2011 had only 19 receptions for 283 yards and not a single score.
Denver traded Lloyd to the St. Louis Rams for a conditional sixth round draft pick, a price that seems shockingly low when you consider Lloyd's favorable contract and the fact that the Patriots were able to get rid of Randy Moss for a third round pick last season.
The trade is specifically confusing for St. Louis who is essentially out of playoff contention at 0-5 and division-leading San Francisco 5-1. Those games are not going to be easy to make up, and Sam Bradford has been as bad as almost any quarterback in the league to this point, regardless of who he has to throw the ball to.
My guess is that right now, the Rams are giving Lloyd the remaining eleven games to see if he is worthy of a two or three year extension to continue to help Bradford develop while they continue to break in other new wide receivers. If it doesn't work out, it only cost them a sixth round pick. At worst, it will cost them a fifth round pick, and they are getting a guy who made the Pro Bowl last year and was playing the best ball of his career.
For the Broncos, this is simply a dump move. They obviously didn't have any intention of re-signing Lloyd at the end of the season regardless, and Lloyd had no intention of staying in Denver. He went from a bad team to a worse team, but Denver did reunite him with the guy who helped make him a Pro Bowl receiver--Josh McDaniels.
To me, this trade makes painful sense, and I say that because I think the Broncos were fleeced by only getting a sixth round pick in return, and even a possibility of getting a fifth round pick doesn't make me wave pom-poms or anything like that.
However, it does make sense because there was no future with Lloyd in Denver, so why not get something from him while you still can? I realize the argument of a compensation draft pick and just playing out the last eleven games with Lloyd, but I get the sense that Lloyd didn't want to be in Denver anymore, so why should the Broncos want him there?
The Broncos also need to see what they have in Demaryius Thomas, for better or worse. If Denver flops the rest of this season, you can bet they are going to try to makeover the entire offensive side of the ball, and that could potentially start with the quarterback position, or maybe they look at a guy like Alshon Jeffery, Justin Blackmon, or Michael Floyd in the first round as a potential game-changer at the receiver position.
Regardless of what happens to Lloyd, the future is right now in Denver. Like I said, it's the beginning of the beginning, and hopefully Tim Tebow can show growth as a quarterback along with some other young guys, specifically guys who were brought in in the same draft as he was. Thomas, Eric Decker, and rookies Julius Thomas and Virgil Green could be key components of the rebuilding of Denver's passing game.
At this point, the best case scenario is that Thomas emerges into a number one receiver, Decker continues to prove he can be effective as a number two or slot receiver, and who knows--maybe Eddie Royal will show that he is still capable of making plays and that his rookie year in 2008 wasn't just a fluke.
The worst case scenario is that Tebow blows it, Thomas blows it, and Decker doesn't show improvements. That would leave the Broncos at square one once again, and probably another three to five years from contention.
But, at least we are going to find out. We have 11 games to get a glimpse of what this team could look like for the future. I am excited about it, though not so excited to see Lloyd leave, but I understand it and hope it works out for us.