Broncos trade for Saints kicker Wil Lutz

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have traded for New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz, coach Sean Payton confirmed Tuesday.

"At the beginning of the whole process, he was a target for us,'' Payton said. "We knew they had two players ... I was there through the whole beginning with Wil.''

The Broncos sent a 2024 seventh-round pick to New Orleans for Lutz, sources told ESPN. The Broncos released Brandon McManus in May, and Elliott Fry and Brett Maher were competing for the job when camp opened.

Fry then suffered an injury and was waived, and Maher finished out the preseason as the team's only kicker. Maher was 4-of-6 in field goal attempts in the preseason and had a 52-yard attempt blocked in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

Maher has been told he will be released, a source told ESPN.

Lutz thanked New Orleans "for the best 7 years of my life" in an Instagram post and said he was excited to be joining the Broncos.

Payton, however, has been open about his willingness to wait and see what players would be available as roster cuts approached leaguewide. At kicker, he even got specific enough to say he would monitor "seven" kicking battles around the league.

Lutz, who is 29, spent five seasons as Payton's kicker with the Saints. Lutz did not kick in an NFL game in 2021 because of an injury and was 23-of-31 in field goal attempts (74.2%) last season for New Orleans, the worst percentage of his career.

"Obviously his numbers dropped off (in 2022), but he had a really good training camp for them,'' Payton said Tuesday. "We saw all of his kicks and got pretty good information in how his practices went.''

He was named to his only career Pro Bowl in 2019, when he was 32-of-36 in field goal attempts, including 16-of-20 on attempts of 40 yards or more, and 48-of-49 on extra points.

The Lutz trade means the Saints are going with rookie kicker Blake Grupe, who was mistaken for a fan by security after he kicked a game-winning field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs in a preseason game.

Grupe hit a 59-yard field goal in practice last week and was the main kicker in New Orleans' final preseason game against the Houston Texans on Sunday. Grupe kicked a 38-yard field goal and a 50-yard field goal before missing a 60-yard attempt wide right.

The Saints will have two rookie specialists this year as 30-year-old undrafted rookie free agent punter Lou Hedley won the job over Blake Gillikin. Hedley is the second Saints punter since the team released longtime veteran Thomas Morstead before the 2021 season. Gillikin was waived by the team.

Hedley punted for Miami from 2019-2022 after transferring from City College of San Francisco. Hedley is a former Australian rules football player who signed with the Saints this offseason as an undrafted rookie free agent.

ESPN's Katherine Terrell contributed to this report.