Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos Have Acquired TE A.J. Derby From The New England Patriots

In a rare inter-conference trade, the Broncos have acquired a tight end from the Patriots and waived a veteran safety.

The Denver Broncos are clearly not happy with how second-year tight end Jeff Heuerman is developing because they just consummated a rare in-season trade with a Conference powerhouse. The New England Patriots have traded tight end A.J. Derby to the Broncos in exchange for a 2017 fifth round draft pick, the Broncos announced today. Denver waived safety Shiloh Keo. Derby was selected in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Patriots out of Arkansas

“A.J. is a young tight end who can help us immediately,” GM John Elway said via press release. “He has tremendous upside and will fit in well on our team.”

As a rookie, the former collegiate quarterback was waived/injured right as the preseason was getting underway.  Derby came into Patriots training camp this year committed to competing and improvement.

He had a strong preseason performance, where he led New England with 15 receptions for 189 yards (12.6 avg.) with one touchdown. It prompted the Patriots to keep him and carry four tight ends on the active roster. With Rob Gronkowski's return to the playing field, Martellus Bennett adding to the mix, and Clay Harbor's experience, Derby became expendable. 

It's very unlike Bill Belichick to give any Conference foe a leg up strategically. Derby will most certainly be debriefed on New England's system by Coach Gary Kubiak and company. The Broncos will host the Patriots in Week 15. 

Derby currently has no professional stats. As Razorback tight end, he appeared in 11 games in 2014, starting seven. He tallied 22 catches for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He switched from QB to TE in fall camp of his senior season. 

• VIDEO: A.J. Derby Draft Breakdown

Derby was a two-time, first-team All-State QB, who led Iowa City High to a State championship as a senior. He continued his collegiate career as a QB at Iowa for two years, before transferring to Coffeyville Community College. He played one season there before moving to Arkansas and switching to TE. 

Derby has an NFL pedigree. His father, John, played for the Detroit Lions in 1992 and later Bill Belichick's Cleveland Browns, where he was cut. A.J.'s uncle, Glenn Derby, played for the New Orleans Saints from 1989-90. 

The Broncos must have really liked Derby to give up the value a fifth rounder has historically provided John Elway in the draft. As for Keo, the emergence of rookie safety Will Parks and Justin Simmons now healthy enough to play, left the team feeling like they had some wiggle room at the position. 

Don't be surprised if Shiloh Keo finds his way back to the Broncos at some point this season. 

• DISCUSSION: Do you like this trade? Sound off with other Broncos fans in the forums! 

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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