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Broncos trade draft pick for former Viking Stephen Weatherly

What does the trade mean?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Broncos acquire yet another former Viking
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero has reported the Broncos are sending a 2022 seventh-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings to acquire the 27-year-old Stephen Weatherly and a 2023 seventh round pick, pending a physical. In a corresponding move, the Broncos have placed linebacker Micah Kiser on Injured Reserve.

Weatherly is a 6’5 265 lb. edge who entered the league as a seventh round pick in 2016. Outside of a 2020 campaign with the Carolina Panthers, he’s played the entirety of his career with the Minnesota Vikings. Across his six seasons in the league, he’s notched six sacks, three in 2018 and three in 2019. He’s played 82 defensive snaps in 2021 and has 4 pressures to show for it by Sports Info Solutions charting.

Before the 2021 regular season began the Vikings approached Weatherly about a $500,000 pay cut. He took the offer, and it lowered his overall salary to $1.5 million this season. With 11 weeks left in the regular season the Broncos will pay him $916,667.

There’s a few layers to this move, some I personally like, some I don’t.

After what looked like a very scary injury in the 17-14 loss to the Browns, it looks like Von Miller sprained his ankle. At his Friday press conference Vic Fangio said the Broncos did not know what his current timeline looked like, but the hope seems to be that he’ll return this season. I don’t think I can overstate what his absence means for the rest of what’s been a struggling defense. Miller leads the team in sacks and entered the Cleveland game among the NFL leaders in pressures. No other pass rusher on the roster is consistently winning their one on one rushes.

Without Miller or Bradley Chubb, who is on Injured Reserve following his surgery to remove bone spurs, the Broncos edge depth looked pretty bleak. Malik Reed is the elder statesman, while Jonathon Cooper had what some may consider a breakout performance in Miller’s absence Thursday. Behind them is Pita Taumoepenu, who was signed to the practice squad in late September after failing to make the team in August. Aaron Patrick is also on the roster, though he was ruled out of the Browns game with an ankle injury.

With the crisis in the edge room, the trade for Stephen Weatherly makes a ton of sense. George Paton is clearly familiar with him after being a member of the team that drafted him way back in 2016. He’s a very athletic outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid who presumably fits Vic Fangio’s defense and can contribute to Tom McMahon’s special teams. It’s also worth noting that seventh round picks very rarely turn into more than the kind of rotational depth Weatherly’s been to this point in his career, so the price to acquire him is certainly reasonable.

The one issue I have with the move is that it does seem to suggest George Paton is “all-in” on making the Broncos competitive in 2021. If that’s the case, so be it, but I do question the wisdom when you stop and consider the opportunity cost against the odds that Denver makes the playoffs this year. They’re currently 3-4 after what some consider the easiest schedule in football and still have two games against the Chiefs and Chargers, as well as matchups with the Cowboys, Bengals, and Raiders.

The Broncos run defense completely fell apart against a Browns team starting Case Keenum and D’Ernest Johnson at quarterback and running back. Is Stephen Weatherly going to make a difference? Maybe the Broncos first year general manager isn’t done making moves. That could certainly be the case if he’s adamant about chasing the playoffs. Given the issues across the roster, I just wonder if any move at the fringes really matters.