- Mike Klis
After many discussions, Broncos get their man in Su'a Cravens
Broncos general manager John Elway and Washington president Bruce Allen reached agreement on the deal while meeting personally during the NFL owners meetings in Orlando.
If there is a moral to the story regarding the Su’a Cravens trade, it is that it’s easier to say no when communication is by phone or e-mail than when meeting face to face.
A deal that had been in the works for five weeks reached its conclusion Wednesday when the Broncos acquired Cravens – a monster back-type who plays both strong safety and sub-package linebacker – from Washington in a complicated exchange of draft picks.
The Broncos had three, fifth-round picks this year and they gave their lowest one, No. 163, away in the Cravens’ deal. The Broncos and Washington also swapped spots in the fourth and fifth rounds. The Broncos went back four spots, from 109 to 113 in the fourth round, and seven spots, from 142 to 149 in the fifth round.
The Broncos also agreed to give Washington a conditional 6th round pick in the 2020 draft if Cravens plays in a playoff game. 9News was the first to report on the trade’s compensation terms.
Add it all up and the Broncos essentially surrendered a late, fourth-round draft pick for a player who was selected in the second round two years ago.
There is reason, however, why Cravens’ value slipped. Cravens is an enormous talent who brings concerns about his football character. A second-round draft pick out of USC by Washington in 2016, Cravens played linebacker in sub -- or nickel and dime -- packages as a rookie. He had a sack, an interception, 34 tackles and three starts in 11 games, an indication of his versatility.
He is often compared to Deone Bucannon, Arizona’s excellent safety/linebacker hybrid.
Cravens though missed his entire second season of 2017, though, for a variety of issues. After suffering a concussion that forced him to miss several games as a rookie in 2016, Cravens was still feeling the effects of post-concussion syndrome in 2017.
He was also dealing with some deep personal issues with his family. Cravens briefly retired just prior to the 2017 season, although Washington president Bruce Allen told the player to take some time to reconsider. Eventually, Washington put Cravens on their reserve/left squad list, a transaction that ended his season.
Cravens was medically cleared from his concussion last December and in late-February, Elway along with Broncos’ director of player development Matt Russell started having discussions with Allen about a Cravens trade.
According to a source close to Cravens, the player wanted to be dealt to Denver so he could be closer to his Los Angeles area home.
Still to be determined is a possible issue with Cravens’ position. A solid 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, he is considered best as a linebacker in nickel and dime packages – a position currently held on the Broncos by Will Parks. However, Cravens has stated a preference is to play strong safety.
That’s Darian Stewart’s position, and he’s expected to stay there, especially when his $4.5 salary became fully guaranteed on March 18. Justin Simmons is the Broncos’ other starting safety who is coming off a nice second season.
Cravens played sub linebacker as a rookie with Washington in 2016 and though he was expected to switch to strong safety last year, he never played because of concussion and personal issues.
Before Parks or Stewart worry about their job security, though, Cravens must prove his commitment to the game. No other team was believed to be interested in trading for Cravens because of this concern.
But if he’s all in, the Broncos could have got a steal. During his three seasons for the USC Trojans, Cravens, who turns 23 in July, had 9 interceptions, 10.5 sacks and 207 tackles.
Denver-based NFL agent Peter Schaffer says his client, Cravens, is all in. Cravens got one call from Washington director of player development Doug Williams informing him of the trade, followed closely by another call from Elway with a welcome.
"To me that's a pretty cool morning for a player when in 5 minutes you get two Super Bowl MVPs calling,'' Schaffer said.
The Broncos once had 11 draft picks in 2018 after trading cornerback Aqib Talib to the Los Angeles Rams. They now have eight picks. They gave away a late-fifth-round selection for Cravens, a 6th rounder for right tackle Jared Veldheer and a 7th-rounder, along with quarterback Trevor Siemian in exchange for Minnesota’s 5th-round selection in 2019.
The Broncos’ eight draft picks: First round (No. 5 overall), second round (No. 40), two in the third round (No. 71 and 99), two in the fourth round (No. 106 and 113), and two in the fifth (No. 149 and 160).