ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos acquired kicker Wil Lutz from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a seventh-round pick next year, reuniting the veteran kicker with coach Sean Payton.
The Broncos also traded veteran tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and a 2025 seventh-round selection to the Philadelphia Eagles for a ’25 sixth-rounder.
Okwuegbunam is coming off a monster exhibition finale in which he caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Rams, after which his teammates serenaded him with chants of “Albert O! Albert O!”
“I’ve always been capable of doing this,” he said afterward. “Tonight, I just got the opportunities to show it.”
In 26 games over his first three NFL seasons, Okwuegbunam had 54 catches for 546 yards and four touchdowns.
The Lutz deal means New Orleans will go with undrafted rookie Blake Grupe from Notre Dame. He was 5-for-6 in the preseason with his only miss from 60 yards.
Saints coach Dennis Allen said the decision to trade Lutz was “real tough.”
“Wil Lutz has been a good kicker for us for a while now,” Allen said. “We felt like we had a chance to get value for a player and felt like we had another guy in the building that we had confidence in. So, those are always challenging situations.”
The 24-year-old Grupe had opportunities to play college soccer but elected to try football at Arkansas State, where he kicked for four seasons before using an additional year of eligibility to kick at Notre Dame in 2022. In the hours before the Saints’ preseason opener this month, when the 5-foot-7, 156-pound Grupe walked out on the Superdome field out of uniform, he was stopped by security personnel who didn’t realize he was a player.
He’ll be better recognized now.
“It’s been obviously a highly competitive camp, going against a guy like (Lutz) that’s done if for a while and done it at a high level,” Grupe said. ”I couldn’t have asked for a better competition or a better guy to do it against. … He congratulated me. I congratulated him.”
The Broncos released veteran Brandon McManus in the spring and brought in veterans Elliott Fry and Brett Maher for a camp competition. Fry was waived with an injury designation after the preseason opener where he missed a field goal.
Maher, who was jettisoned by the Dallas Cowboys in the offseason following his extra point meltdown in the playoffs, missed two field goals in that first preseason game before bouncing back to make all four of his attempts and all seven extra points in the last two exhibitions.
Maher was released following the acquisition of Lutz.
“Brett Maher did an outstanding job,” Broncos general manager George Paton said. “I feel he should be kicking in this league.”
Payton had made it clear that Maher hadn’t won the job when Fry was released two weeks ago and was actually competing with kickers across the league.
That included Lutz, 29, who signed with New Orleans after the Baltimore Ravens cut him in 2016.
Lutz has made 84.6% of his field goal attempts in his seven-year NFL career. He made 74.2% of his tries last year after missing 2021 with a core muscle injury.
He was perfect in the preseason, nailing all four of his kicks, and Payton said he believes Lutz is back to his pre-injury self.
“He was a target for us. We knew they had two players,” Payton said. ”… He had a really good training camp for them. We’ve seen all of his kicks and we got pretty good information on how his practices went. And look, this is a place kickers want to be with the altitude and the conditions.”
Lutz will see plenty of familiar faces in Denver besides Payton’s.
The Broncos stocked their roster with several former Saints who played for Payton in New Orleans, including tight end Adam Trautman, fullback Michael Burton and wide receivers Marquez Callaway and Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.
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