“A.J. is a young tight end who can help us immediately,” general manager John Elway said, via the team’s official website. “He has tremendous upside and will fit in well on our team.”
A sixth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Derby missed his rookie season with a knee injury. The former college quarterback opened eyes in training camp this past summer, though, hauling in 15 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown in four preseason games.
When Belichick noted in August that his tight-end group was the deepest he has ever seen in New England, he singled out Derby as a key component.
Despite all of that promise, though, Derby has yet to catch a regular-season pass. With Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett drawing praise from future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez as the greatest tight-end duo in NFL history, Derby’s path to playing time was blocked.
If you’re keeping score at home, the Patriots flipped a fourth-round pick to Chicago for a proven Pro Bowl talent in Bennett and sent the unproven Derby to Denver for a fifth-round pick. That’s value.