Why did the Broncos trade Trinity Benson and acquire Jonas Griffith?

Denver Broncos wide receiver Trinity Benson (12) runs the ball as wide receiver Kendall Hinton (9) goes to block Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Aug 14, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Trinity Benson (12) runs the ball as wide receiver Kendall Hinton (9) goes to block Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Roster cutdown day is upon us, as we’ve seen all 32 teams make a flurry of moves — some of which are very surprising — in an attempt to whittle their roster down to the 53 best players.

The Denver Broncos appear to be one of the more active teams, already conducting two pretty shocking trades.

The first, and more surprising trade was shipping training camp standout Trinity Benson and a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Lions in exchange for a fifth and seventh-round pick in 2022.

At face value, the trade makes sense for both teams, though it’s disappointing to see Benson depart for those who had grown attached to his impressive offseason performance.

The Lions desperately needed help at wide receiver, as they have one of the worst pass-catching units in the league. Meanwhile, a fifth and a seventh-round pick is a remarkable return for a player who has never played in the regular season, so it makes sense for Denver too.

It should also be noted, that the Broncos’ special teams unit desperately needs help, after continued poor performances in the preseason. Reportedly, Benson was not going to be a big contributor on special teams, which is a big problem for a back-end-of-the-roster receiver, who will likely see most of their snaps on special teams.

In other words, the Broncos got excellent compensation for a player that didn’t fit their needs at the position.

While that aspect is very sensible, it’s surprising following the waiving of Seth Williams and Tyrie Cleveland. Cleveland and Williams were expected to compete with Benson for that No. 6 wide receiver spot, and when they were waived Monday night, it was understandably viewed as a move signifying Benson’s roster security.

Of course, that wasn’t the case, and the Broncos now are searching for a sixth wide receiver. They could choose to bring back Cleveland or Williams potentially, but they also might prefer someone who specializes in special teams play.

That theme of improving the special teams carries over to the team’s second trade of the day, acquiring linebacker Jonas Griffith from the San Francisco 49ers and a seventh-round pick in 2022 for a 2022 sixth and a 2023 seventh.

Griffith is a plus-athlete at linebacker, and has been a strong special teams contributor for him throughout the preseason. As a small-school product with tremendous upside, there’s also certainly the potential for him to be developed by Vic Fangio into someone who could contribute in a major way on defense as well.

It will be interesting to see how this signing shakes up the linebacker room though, as the Broncos were only projected to carry four inside linebackers — Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad and Baron Browning — and this move creates the possibility of one of those players making the final roster. Even if the Broncos do decide to carry five linebackers, that means another position group will have to suffer an unexpected loss to make space for the larger linebacker room.

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