ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tim Tebow has lost his top target even before making his first start of the season.
The Denver Broncos traded Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd, the league’s leading receiver last year, to the St. Louis Rams on Monday for a conditional 2012 draft pick.
The move comes a week after Tebow supplanted Kyle Orton at quarterback and six days before Tebow’s first start at Miami.
While the trade provides opportunities for young receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Matt Willis, it also opens the organization to increased scrutiny in the midst of its 1-4 start.
“We think it’s a position of strength,” Broncos coach John Fox said of his receiving corps. “We’ve got some guys coming back — Demaryius Thomas, Eddie Royal — and (we like) the emergence of Eric Decker.”
Lloyd said the trade was a mutual effort. He said he wanted to be a featured receiver in a more pass-oriented offense and thought his departure was best not just for his own career but for those of the receivers he left behind.
And Lloyd stressed his desire to leave Denver was unrelated to the Broncos’ quarterback switch last week.
“This had nothing to do with Tim,” Lloyd told 104.3 The Fan radio station in Denver. “I’m like everybody else, I find it hard not to like the kid and I have a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he wants to accomplish in his career.
“I think this move creates the space for Denver to really find out what they want to do with the organization and the same thing for me. It puts me in a situation where maybe a team will want to look at me long-term or maybe I can fill a void for a season for St. Louis and get those guys back on track.”
Now that Orton’s no longer calling the plays, the Broncos are expected to go to even more of a ball-control offense under Tebow, a scrambler and a 49 percent career passer.
In St. Louis, Lloyd will be reunited with former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, now the coordinator of a Rams offense that has stumbled with so many of Sam Bradford’s receivers banged up.
“That helps tremendously. There shouldn’t be any kind of learning curve,” Rams general manager Billy Devaney said.
The Rams said they sent a sixth-rounder to Denver that could turn into a fifth-rounder if Lloyd catches 30 passes for St. Louis, something all parties certainly expect to happen.
“He’s made a lot of big plays in the NFL,” Devaney said. “He’s got size, good hands, (is) a polished route runner. He’s got a knack for making a big play. We’re going to put him in the mix.”
Lloyd said he would play Sunday against Dallas and was excited for his reunion with McDaniels and eager to work with Bradford and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo.
Lloyd is in the final year of a deal that pays him about $1.4 million, a bargain for a player who led the league with 1,448 yards receiving last year, when he caught 77 passes, 11 of them for touchdowns.
His numbers are down this year, with 19 catches for 283 yards and no touchdowns.