Should the New England Patriots strike out on wide receivers Tee Higgins and Brandon Aiyuk in the trade market, as it appears they will, Denver Broncos wideout Courtland Sutton could serve as a viable third (or fourth?) option.

It was reported Tuesday that Sutton did not report to voluntary workouts in Denver. The 28-year-old, who has two years left on his contract, is seeking a new deal, according to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero. Sutton’s pact currently includes base salaries of $13 million and $13.5 million and cap hits of $17.4 and $17.8 million, per Spotrac.

Sutton might not have the same statistical resume as Higgins or Aiyuk. And he is a few years older, too. But Patriots first-year head coach Jerod Mayo said “weaponizing” the offense, to him, meant adding someone who defenses have to prepare and account for. Opposing defenses need to prepare and account for the 6-foot-4, 216-pound Sutton.

Adding Sutton ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft also would help alleviate one major concern for the offense. The Patriots could still target a receiver on Day 2, likely after a top quarterback prospect and offensive tackle, but they would not need to reach if they’re not high on who’s there. As it currently stands, the Patriots have to be perfect with their first three picks given their needs at quarterback, offensive tackle and receiver.

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The biggest question as it pertains to Sutton is whether the Broncos will actually trade him. And if so, what the Patriots would need to trade to acquire him. Nobody expects Sutton will command the same second-round pick as Stefon Diggs — and if so the Patriots should not pursue. But if New England can add Sutton for a Day 3 pick, it would be worth it. For the sake of speculating, perhaps the Patriots offer a 2024 fifth-rounder that can become a fourth if Sutton reaches a playing time mark in 2024.

And perhaps the Patriots can then add a sweetener to Sutton’s contract rather than some big-money extension past 2026.

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Is that too much of a perfect scenario? Maybe. But if Sutton seeks more guarantees up front, given the fact he had an ACL injury in 2020 and reportedly is coming off offseason ankle surgery, it could prove enticing.

Sutton led the Broncos in snaps in 2023. He finished with 59 catches for 772 yards and 10 touchdowns, despite seeing just 90 targets in Sean Payton’s offense. Sutton saw 109 targets during the 2022 season.

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At the very least, Sutton would improve New England’s ceiling with Kendrick Bourne and Demario Douglas, along with offseason addition K.J. Osborn. He would undoubtedly be an upgrade over JuJu Smith-Schuster, and greatly help a developing quarterback.

While Sutton would be able to provide the Patriots with versatility, he likely would be tasked to fill a role on the outside. He lined up outside on 48.7% of snaps in Denver last season, per Rotowire, the exact same amount as inside (48.7%). His frame allows him to make tough, contested catches outside the numbers and in the red zone. He’s been good as a downfield playmaker, a role the Patriots have struggled to fill in recent years.

Those reasons are why the Patriots should target Sutton. But they’re also reasons why the Broncos might not want to deal him. After the Broncos traded Jerry Jeudy to the Cleveland Browns, The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt reported March 12 that Denver was not shopping Sutton. But with the Broncos cutting finances this offseason, and Sutton looking for more from Denver, there’s a real possibility things change ahead of the draft.

With Higgins anticipating he will play for the Bengals in 2024 and the 49ers seemingly not budging on Aiyuk, the Patriots would be wise to pursue another avenue in the trade market.

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