ENGLEWOOD | Longshot wide receiver Trinity Benson achieved his lifelong goal Tuesday, finally making the 53-man roster on his third try after spending two years toiling on Denver’s practice squad.
He had to fly 1,200 miles to take that last step.
Ahead of the league’s cutdown deadline, the Broncos traded Benson and a 2023 sixth-round draft pick to the Detroit Lions for a pair of picks in next year’s draft.
“He’s a success story,” Broncos GM George Paton said. “He came from nowhere and for him to develop into an NFL wide receiver — we had a lot of teams calling on him — I think it’s a great story and the credit goes to Trinity.
“He was down the depth chart here because we are talented there. And it’s a credit to him that teams were calling,” Paton added. “And we just thought it was a win-win: a win for us to get value, a win for Trinity and really a win for the Detroit Lions.”
The Lions sent Paton a pair of picks, fifth- and seventh-rounders next year when the draft pool will be unusually deep after the NCAA granted players an extra season of eligibility in response to the pandemic.
In another trade, the Broncos acquired linebacker and special teams standout Jonas Griffith from the 49ers along with a 2022 seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth-round selection next year and a seventh-rounder in 2023.
That move was made to address Denver’s poor special teams play this summer.
“This kid’s 6-3, he can run, he can fly,” Paton said. “He’s really going to help our special teams and I think we need help on special teams.”
The Benson deal was a mild surprise despite the Broncos’ depth at receiver.
Benson, a 6-foot, 180-pound receiver who went undrafted out of Division II East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, in 2019, spent two years on Denver’s practice squad and starred at Denver’s training camp this summer.
On a wide receiver corps loaded with talent — Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and K.J. Hamler — it was Benson who day after day made the most spectacular grabs.
More importantly, he showed up big on game days.
In the Broncos’ exhibition opener at Minnesota, Benson caught touchdown passes from both Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock and he finished the preseason with eight catches for 80 yards.
He alternately showed off terrific hands, such as when he high-pointed a seemingly unreachable pass over two defenders, and his sneaky speed.
“T.B. is fast,” said Hamler, whose 80-yard TD catch was tied for the longest in the league this preseason. “Me and T.B. always talk about building a 4×100 team, and we’re trying to figure out who the anchor would be.”
Asked two weeks ago what Benson had to do to nudge his way onto the final roster, Broncos coach Vic Fangio said he had to keep doing what he was doing because longshots had no room for error, an admonition Benson embraced.
“My whole thing coming in was continue to make plays at practice and then when game time comes, make those same plays,” he said.
Benson had good camps the last two summers, too, but he said he “popped” this summer because of his experience going up against Denver’s top defense two years in a row.
In the end, Benson couldn’t nudge out another receiver in the room, firmly established kick returner Deionte Spencer, for a roster spot in Denver.
Benson embraced his role as the underdog in Denver’s deep receiving corps that’s full of first- and second-rounders who hail from Power Five programs.
“I came from the D-2 level, so I always come out here with a chip on my shoulder just to show that I can play with the big boys,” Benson said.
Now he’ll take that same attitude to Detroit.
Notes: The Broncos included injured DB Michael Ojemudia and RB Mike Boone on their 53-man roster but they’ll go on IR Thursday with the Broncos hoping to bring back veterans T Cam Fleming and DL Shamar Stephen.