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HT: Broncos are short on options to replace Jake Butt

The NFL’s pantry is pretty bare when it comes to tight ends. So what can the Broncos do to improve?

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Losing Jake Butt to a torn ACL yesterday was a significant blow to the Broncos’ offense, and it came at a really horrible time. With the offense already sputtering, losing the guy with the 3rd most receptions through three weeks of play is pretty far from optimal.

Compounding the issue, the Broncos’ tight ends group now consists of Jeff Heuerman and Matt LaCosse. Heuerman, a former 3rd round pick from the 2015 draft, has been okay at best so far in his career. LaCosse also entered the NFL in 2015, though he went undrafted, and sports a whole 3 receptions in his NFL career. Heuerman adds only another 23 receptions for 315 yards & 2 TDs despite playing in 29 games so far as a Bronco and starting 11 of them. So it should be no surprise when I tell you: That’s just not good enough.

The Denver Broncos currently have, by far, the worst tight end group in the NFL.

Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Now the onus is on General Manager John Elway to step in & make a move to fill this suddenly gaping hole in the offense. It’s time for the NFL’s best free agency GM to work some magic and prestidigitate a new name into the top slot of the Broncos’ TE depth chart. Unfortunately, that’s probably going to be really hard to do.

The Replacements

Coby Fleener

A former Colts & Saints tight end, Fleenor was released by New Orleans this past May after suffering from concussion symptoms for months on end. It’s hard to find current news on him, but as recently as June he was still hoping to make a return to the NFL. If that’s still the case, a prove-it deal would be in order. On such a deal, he’d arguably offer the Broncos the very best mixture of talent vs price they’re likely to find. And with over 3,000 career receiving yards and 22 touchdowns on 255 receptions, he’d immediately become the most proven tight end the Broncos have fielded since at least 2015 (Own Daniels/Vernon Davis), or arguably 2013 (Julius Thomas).

Washington Redskins v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Obviously, signing Fleener wouldn’t come without some significant risks. Those concussion symptoms are a scary issue, & it’s entirely fair to question whether facilitating his comeback to the NFL stage would be the best thing for his health- or for the Broncos.

Jack Doyle

The NFL’s cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to spare tight ends. Despite the fact that quality starting tight ends can absolutely wreck a defense, it’s not easy to find those guys. Jack Doyle, uninspiring as he might be, is probably among the Broncos’ best bets for swinging a trade for a surplus tight end.

Doyle is in his 6th year with the Indianapolis Colts, having accrued 1,563 yards on 183 receptions during that time, to go with 12 touchdowns.

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

That’s not very impressive. Trust me, I know. But go scroll through each team’s depth chart and tell me how many teams have two tight ends who’ve been significant contributors in the NFL. There are definitely some out there: Zach Ertz & Dallas Goedert for the Philadelphia Eagles are a good example, or the Tampa Bay BuccaneersCameron Brate & OJ Howard. The problem is that both of those pairs contain one highly valuable, high-drafted youngster & one quality veteran who just signed a 5 or 6 year deal worth over $40 million total. That severely limits the realistic prospects of trading for any of those guys.

Sad as it is, Doyle is more or less what’s probably achievable. As to whether he’s worth it at the $4.4 million price tag he would carry in 2018? That’s... highly debatable. For that matter, it’s debatable whether he’d even be an upgrade over Heuerman anyway.

Maxx Williams

Another somewhat-realistic trade candidate is the Baltimore Ravens’ 4th year tight end. Williams basically missed the 2016 season with an injury, but the former 2nd round pick hasn’t done much to impress in the other 2.2 years of his NFL career. With 54 receptions for 422 yards and just 2 touchdowns, Williams has so far been underwhelming at the very least. Again, it’s entirely fair to give him a pass due to not even being an upgrade to what we have now.

So What to Do?

Quite honestly, if Fleener isn’t an option, there’s not really a “splashy” move I can see that’s worth making. The teams that have quality starting tight ends would be foolish to give them up, and those few teams who’ve managed to find two such players have excellent incentive to sell them dearly, if at all. And the Broncos lack the cap space to pay a TE a lot, which is another significant hurdle.

In my opinion, it’s time for Elway & the Broncos’ front office to scour the league’s practice squads and dive headfirst into analyzing all of those guys’ tape in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough a-la Todd Davis or Brandon Marshall. With no sure bets, the only decent option is to start gambling. Hopefully Elway can make with the magic. Otherwise, we’re stuck hoping that Jeff Heuerman finally, finally becomes the player he was drafted to be.

Do you like an option I didn’t think of? Let me know in the comments!


How should the Broncos address the lack of talent at tight end?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Sign Fleener.
    (283 votes)
  • 3%
    Trade for Doyle.
    (46 votes)
  • 3%
    Trade for Williams.
    (42 votes)
  • 32%
    Try & find a hidden gem on a practice squad.
    (437 votes)
  • 24%
    Put our trust in Jeff Heuerman & Matt LaCosse.
    (334 votes)
  • 16%
    Lay down, curl up into a ball, and lament the league-wide lack of depth at TE.
    (219 votes)
1361 votes total Vote Now

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