The Tim Tebow era is officially underway in Denver, but when the second-year fan-favorite takes his first snap as the team’s starting quarterback on Sunday he’ll do so without the team’s leading receiver.
The Broncos traded Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd to the St. Louis Rams on Monday for a conditional first-round draft pick in 2012. The NFL’s trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST, meaning Lloyd’s deal might be the only notable move to go down.
While the move — particularly its timing — seems curious from an outside perspective, both Lloyd and the Broncos said it was a mutual split in the best interest of both parties. (Read: Lloyd was not petrified of playing with Tebow as his quarterback.)
“This had nothing to do with Tim,” Lloyd told 104.3 The Fan radio station in Denver. “I’m like everybody else, I find it hard not to like the kid and I have a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he wants to accomplish in his career.
“I think this move creates the space for Denver to really find out what they want to do with the organization and the same thing for me. It puts me in a situation where maybe a team will want to look at me long-term or maybe I can fill a void for a season for St. Louis and get those guys back on track.”
In exchange for Lloyd, the Broncos received a sixth-round pick that could turn into a fifth-rounder if Lloyd catches 30 passes the rest of the season.
Lloyd experienced the pinnacle of an up-and-down nine-year career last season when he led the league with 1,448 receiving yards. As Orton’s favorite target, he flourished with 77 catches and 11 touchdowns. This season, Lloyd has started slowly — along with the entire Broncos offense — and has recorded only 19 catches for 283 yards and no touchdowns.
The Broncos also possess several talented young pass-catchers who will have more opportunities to get on the field with Lloyd in St. Louis.
Eric Decker, in his second year out of Minnesota, already has four touchdowns on the season; Eddie Royal is a reliable possession receiver (although he, too, is rumored to be on the trading block); and Demaryius Thomas is in line to make his season debut this week after missing the first five weeks while recovering from Achilles surgery and a broken finger.
Meantime, Lloyd’s new quarterback may not be on the field when he suits up for the Rams this weekend at Dallas. Sam Bradford was in a walking boot Monday after he suffered a high ankle sprain in the team’s 24-3 loss at Green Bay on Sunday.
“I think you are always concerned when you see your quarterback in a boot,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “In my experience with the high ankle sprains, you just never know.”
Bradford, who has been sacked 21 times in the team’s first five games, is finding it difficult to match his production from a record-setting rookie season. He’s completing just 52.8 percent of his passes for a meager average of six yards per pass and has thrown only three touchdowns.
But if Bradford can recover in time to play, he could have as many as three new receivers in the lineup: Lloyd, Mark Clayton and Marquis Johnson. Clayton and Johnson could return from the PUP list this week after coming off knee injuries.