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Gary Zimmerman, Terrel Davis, Craig Morton, Champ Bailey, John Elway, Broncos trades

5 best trades in Denver Broncos history, ranked

After countless of playoff berths, conference and division titles as well as three shiny Super Bowl trophies so far, it’s no question that the Denver Broncos is one of the most dominant forces in the AFC West. But, as with any franchise in the NFL, success doesn’t come overnight. The Broncos’ front office have always been on top of things in trying to move players and acquire new talent that could potentially help propel their organization to the highest of highs.

Let’s go back to five of the best trades in Denver Broncos history.

5. Gary Zimmerman (1993)

After missing the postseason in 1992, the Broncos’ front office knew they had to make moves to beef up their roster. In an effort to put some more muscle in their offensive line, Denver shipped out a bunch of picks in both the 1993 and 1994 drafts to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for seven-year vet Gary Zimmerman. The offensive tackle was already a proven force by that time as part of multiple First Team and Second Team selections as well as the 1980’s All-Decade Team so it was not a surprise that he would provide a much-needed boost for the Broncos upon his arrival.

He started all of his 76 games for Denver in the span of five seasons and would make it to the Pro Bowl two more times to add to his total of seven. Zimmerman would continue to protect legendary QB John Elway and was a vital member of the Broncos squad who won it all in Super Bowl XXXII. The California native would later be inducted to both the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the Broncos Ring of Fame.

4. Terrell Davis (1995)

Trading with picks is always a tricky thing but the Broncos sure got lucky in 1995 when they traded away a fourth-rounder to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a fourth- and sixth-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. With their sixth-round pick, they ended up uncovering a gem in the name of Terrell Davis from Georgia. Davis had an impressive training camp with the Broncos which forced newly appointed head coach Mike Shanahan to give the rookie a spot at the starting lineup. The rookie ended up playing and starting all of his first 14 games as a Bronco and finished his debut season with a total of 1,117 rushing yards.

He played all of his seven seasons in the league for the Orange Crush and had one heck of a career as the Broncos’ main running back in the mid-’90s. Davis ended up making it to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team with three Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selections. In his time in Denver, the running back ended up with a 2,000-yard season, two Super Bowl rings, a Super Bowl MVP and a league MVP. Not bad for 196th overall pick, huh?

3. Craig Morton (1977)

By 1977, quarterback Craig Morton was already believed to be at the twilight of his career after already having 12 seasons under his belt. At the age of 34 though, Morton was able to revive his career when he was acquired by the Broncos from the New York Giants for QB Steve Ramsey and a fifth-round pick. The playmaker turned the hands of time and was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in his first year in Denver. After suffering a hip injury early in the playoffs, the signal-caller returned to bring Denver to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance that year and would be the first-ever quarterback in NFL history to start the Super Bowl for two different teams.

Unfortunately, Morton was on the wrong side of history on both his Super Bowl stints as he lost for both the Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl V) and the Broncos (Super Bowl XII).

Morton would shrug off his second Super Bowl defeat though and would continue to impress as the Broncos’ main playmaker. In six seasons in Denver, Morton would score a total of 74 touchdowns and a total of 11,895 passing yards which puts him third all-time in passing yards in team history. For everything he did for the franchise, we was also inducted to the Broncos Ring of Fame in 1988, a few years after he hung his cleats.

2. Champ Bailey (2004)

With the entire city still reeling from a crushing 41-10 defeat from Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the 2003 NFL playoffs, the team knew they had to make some moves to build on the momentum they were on. In a deal with the Washington Football Team, the Broncos shipped out running back Clinton Portis and a second-rounder for star cornerback Champ Bailey, which gave Denver instant results.

The former All-American came up huge as one of the biggest anchors in the Broncos’ defensive unit for the next decade. He would be named to the first-team All-Pro for his first three years with the franchise and would also be the league’s interception leader in 2006. Bailey would continue his run as one of the best cornerbacks in the league and, in 2012, he would make it to his 12th Pro Bowl selection, which extended his own record for most Pro Bowl appearances by any cornerback in the history of the league.

His farewell season with the Broncos ended on a bittersweet note as he was sidelined by a foot injury all season long. Though he was able to come back and play for his first-ever title game in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos suffered an emphatic 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

1. John Elway (1983)

Was this even a surprise?

After a controversial standstill with the Baltimore Colts, which almost pushed him to a MLB stint with the New York Yankees, iconic quarterback John Elway was finally acquired by the Broncos for guard Chris Hinton, QB Mark Herrmann and a future first-round pick. This, as it stands, is by far the best trade in franchise history and it’s not even debatable.

Elway was one of the most attractive prospects coming into the league at that time and it actually took a while before the quarterback proved that he was indeed worth all the hype. Though the Broncos were in championship contenders in his early years, Elway couldn’t go over the hump as he suffered painful three Super Bowl losses in his first seven seasons in Denver.

Fortunately, all these setbacks only made the Hall of Famer even stronger and finally won it all in Super Bowl XXXII. The nine-time Pro Bowler would lead the Broncos to another championship run the year after and successfully won a back-to-back Super Bowl ring in 1998. Elway also finally won the Super Bowl MVP trophy in his fifth and last Super Bowl appearance. After the win, Elway wanted to finish on top and retired after 16 celebrated seasons with the Broncos.

If two Lombardis aren’t impressive enough, Elway also was league MVP as a Bronco in 1987, a passing yards leader (1993) and was part of both the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team as well as the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Elway stands as the Broncos’ all-time passing leader with 51,475 passing yards and 300 passing TDs.