ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Broncos returned from the bye Monday without wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who was traded to the St. Louis Rams for a conditional draft pick that morning.
The deal reunites Lloyd with ex-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, under whose watch the receiver enjoyed by far his best season. Lloyd scored 11 touchdowns in 2010 after scoring just two in the previous four seasons combined. He also had more receptions (77) and yards (1,448) than in those previous four seasons (59 for 860) and was the Broncos’ leader in receiving yardage this year even though he missed Week 2 with a groin injury.
“(Lloyd is) one of the most talented players I’ve played with,” said cornerback Champ Bailey. “I wish him well. It sucks to lose a guy with that kind of talent.”
The draft pick is currently a sixth-rounder, but could become a fifth if Lloyd catches 30 passes the rest of the season.
“You know he’s better than a first-round talent, but that’s not the way it goes in this league,” said Bailey.
“When you look at it from a front-office standpoint, if he’s going to leave after the season, better get something for him now. It’s almost like that Carmelo (Anthony) deal (from the Nuggets to the Knicks). It’s just the way it is, the nature of the business. You take a hit like that, you keep on moving.”
Added wide receiver Eric Decker: “Brandon Lloyd is a talented player, and there’s a lot of value for him. But at the same time, it is a business decision and they felt that this was a good choice for the Denver Broncos, and I respect that.”
The deal is the Broncos’ first during trade-deadline week in 20 years. In 1991, they sent a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for offensive tackle Harvey Salem, who played 10 games without a start for Denver that year.
Barring injury, it seems likely the pick acquired from St. Louis Monday will become a fifth-rounder considering how little the the winless, punchless Rams have received from their offense to date. They have led for just six minutes, 27 seconds of the 300 minutes they’ve played this season and have spent a majority of the season trailing by two or more scores (173 minutes, 30 seconds).
Given that Lloyd was one of their Pro Bowlers from the 2010 season and he was in the final year of his contract, the decision to swap the receiver — coupled with the promotion of Tim Tebow to starting quarterback — would seem to indicate that the 1-4 Broncos are in rebuilding mode.
“Rebuild, build, it doesn’t matter. We’re 1-4. We were 1-4 with (Lloyd),” Bailey said. “If we go 1-4 again, are you going to blame it on him? It’s not something you really get caught up in. You try to take it one week at a time and keep pushing forward.”
If Brian Dawkins’s neck strain prevents him from playing Sunday, the Broncos are expected to start a lineup that includes eight rookie or second-year players: Tebow, Decker, offensive linemen Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton and Orlando Franklin, linebacker Von Miller and safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter.
Demaryius Thomas is expected to see more playing time with Lloyd now in St. Louis. He returned to practice Monday after missing the last five weeks with a fractured left pinkie and answered, “Yeah,” when asked whether he expected to play against Miami on Sunday.
“I feel like since they traded Lloyd, they’re going to need somebody to step up, and I feel like I can be that guy,” Thomas said.
Whether Thomas plays or not, the receivers can expect to see different coverages.
“I think they’ll probably play straight-up base coverages with all of us in there,” Decker said. “What we want to try to accomplish is to be able to be versatile and be able to learn every position and move around so the defense can’t key on one guy if someone’s having a breakout game or getting more catches at times, just be able to move around and make it hard for defenses.”