2012 Free Agency Preview - Tight Ends

OAKLAND CA - OCTOBER 3: Tight end Joel Dreesen #85 of the Houston Texans is brought down by safety Michael Huff #24 of the Oakland Raiders during an NFL football game October 3 2010 at The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland California. The Texans won the game 31-24. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

To the astute Denver Broncos fan it came as little surprise that Denver hardly used a tight end to catch a pass in 2011. John Fox's offenses have barely ever featured a tight end who caught more than just a handful of passes each season.

What the Broncos went for were tight ends who could block--gone were the days of Shannon Sharpe, here were the days of Daniel Fells a 6'4" end who at times has neared 300 lbs. Denver ran so much that they often had a sixth offensive lineman playing on the line.

Two draft picks were used to take Denver in the Fox's direction one on Julius Thomas and another on Virgil Green. They then picked up Fells and former Carolina Panther Dante Rosario. Thomas showed much promise in preseason, but never saw much regular playing time after suffering an injury and being demoted to fourth string.

Fells and Rosario accounted for several key plays in Tim Tebow comebacks. Rosario saw the most time as a receiving tight end of the group. Amongst the four Fells is the only unrestricted free agent this offseason.

This 2012 free agency class could go down as the year of the second-string, lots of names who have tons of talent, but have been playing in the shadows of a much more well known tight end their entire career.

Let us start with the rainmaker Jermichael Finley from the Green Bay Packers, arguably the best tight end in the NFL will be back in Green Bay next season. Scott Chandler is another player who is probably too valuable to his team, the Buffalo Bills should not let him test the market. Weirder things have happened though and Chandler's decent season could have made him too expensive for Buffalo's billfold.

Here are two immediate impact tight ends who will be day one starters and continue the evolution of Tim Tebow. The first is Joel Dreessen, the man has played second fiddle to Owen Daniels, which is difficult enough, but here is what really impresses me. He has averaged more than 12-yards per catch since 2008.

Dreessen should be one of the major players amongst tight ends in free agency, so I'd nominate my next favorite as Jacob Tamme from the Indianapolis Colts. He has sat quietly as Dallas Clark has pounded the NFL into the ground, Tamme's 2011 effort doesn't appear to be much, but who on the Colts had a good season in 2011? I'd offer either Tamme or Dreessen whatever they wanted to play here.

Missed something? Here are my other free agency previews: quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

Follow me on Twitter here @theorangepage.

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