(Note: This is the first part in a
Epic mini ten-part series on the Worst Moves of 2011; We'll also be doing a ten-part mini on the Ten Best Moves of 2011)
When John Elway and John Fox entered the 2011 season, one thing stood out above all others, and it had nothing to do with Tim Tebow.
The Broncos had a glut at the wide receiver position. Coming back were All-Pro Brandon "The Pretzel" Lloyd, jackknife Eddie Royal, Jabar "Steadyhands" Gaffney, and a whole host of hotshot whippersnappers like Eric "GQ" Decker, Demaryius "MiniTron" Thomas, Matthew "Don't call me Matt" Willis. Add in a hyped-up tight end class from the 2011 Draft and the Broncos had a problem.
Too many hands and not enough balls (yeah, I just wrote that).
At the same time, the Broncos had potential holes on the defensive line. Compounding the problem was the 2011 Draft, in which, for the second straight year, the Broncos completely ignored the defensive tackle.
The solution? Kill two positions with one trade. Enter the Jabar Gaffney deal. On the surface, despite Gaffney setting career highs in both yards (875) and catches (65), it seemed at least a facsimile of reasonable. The Broncos received defensive end Jeremy Jarmon from the Redskins, and in return the Broncos shipped Gaffney off to Mike Shanahan in Washington.
The Broncos opened space on their roster for a group of young and talented wide receivers and cleared $2.4 million of cap space in one move. The added bonus? Jarmon had been injured, had been miscast in Washington's 3-4 scheme, and at about 290 pounds, was versatile enough to play defensive tackle in Dennis Allen's track-meet 4-3.
John Elway tweeted the following on the day of the trade:
Jeremy is an athletic defensive lineman with great versatiliy.
Gaffney, for his part, had this to say after he showed up to the faciltiy ready to work, but was informed of the trade hours later: "I enjoyed it here. It's a great football city. Sounds like they're changing things around here."
In hindsight (which we know is always a cold and ugly wench), the move ended up being a dud. In Washington, Gaffney ended up setting new career highs (68 catches and 947 yards receiving). Jarmon was cut soon after by the Broncos and spent the season on their practice squad (and is now on the roster with a future contract for 2012). The defensive line remains a priority in the upcoming draft.
While it's impossible to know what would have happened had Gaffney remained in Denver this year, it's fun to speculate. Would he have been a veteran influence for Tim Tebow? Would the number of dropped passes have been less? Would the Broncos have won even more games? Would Gaffney, who was a friend to Brandon Lloyd, have been a stabilizing influence on Lloyd as well? Would Lloyd have been less likely to demand a trade?
We'll never know, but it's without question that trading away Gaffney ended up, at least at this juncture, doing little more than clearing away a few scraps of payroll. Lucky for Brian Xanders and John Elway, the division win and playoff victory blunts the pain of this below-average move.