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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
John Sigler

Broncos lock up first round pick from 49ers, a valuable trade chip for Sean Payton

And we’re off. The Denver Broncos secured the No. 29 overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft after the San Francisco 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention in Sunday’s NFC championship game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles — and that’s big news for the New Orleans Saints, who should be looking at that draft pick as a big part of any potential trade for former head coach Sean Payton.

The Broncos received that first rounder from San Francisco after a midseason trade sent pass rusher Bradley Chubb to the Miami Dolphins; Miami owned the pick at the time after receiving it from the 49ers a few years ago when they moved up for quarterback Trey Lance. Now it belongs to Denver.

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Broncos head coach candidates have fallen out of the search for that job one after the next. Jim Harbaugh removed himself from consideration to remain a college coach at Michigan, though his lack of a contract extension has prompted some speculation on that front. Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn chose to stay at his post rather than pursue an opportunity with Denver, too. The Broncos have been said to covet San Francisco’s defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans but he is being drawn closer to the Houston Texans vacancy by the hour.

And, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Denver previously informed candidates Raheem Morris, David Shaw, Jim Caldwell, and Ejiro Evero that they’ll be taking their head coach search in another direction. After beating the 49ers on Sunday, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon told reporters that he won’t leave for a head coach opportunity in 2023, taking him off the board after rumormongering had linked him to the Broncos.

That severely whittles down the list of head coach candidates for Denver, and it seems to suggest Payton is one of the last men standing. We’ll see whether he is actually offered the job in the days ahead, but he could do a lot worse than taking control of a competitive roster with an embattled franchise quarterback. If you’re curious, here are all of the Broncos draft picks in 2023 (they also own each of their picks in the first four rounds for 2024):

  • Round 1, pick No. 29 (from San Francisco 49ers)
  • Round 3, pick No. 67 (from Indianapolis Colts)
  • Round 3, pick No. 68
  • Round 4, Pick No. 108
  • Round 5, Pick No. 141
  • Round 6, Pick No. 195 (from Pittsburgh Steelers)

Will that be enough to wrest Payton aware from New Orleans? Let’s hope to get that question answered sooner rather than later.

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