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2019 Broncos roster review: Tight End Jeff Heuerman

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Jeff Heuerman has an opportunity to thrive in a new (hopefully improved) offense.

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

I thought the decision to bring back Jeff Heuerman was a good one, just given the uncertainty at the tight end position. Now with the acquisition of Noah Fant in the first round along with Heuerman, Denver has a pretty solid tight end duo for a coach who is good at scheming open tight ends, and a quarterback who loves to throw to them.

It seems that every year since he was drafted we have been holding out hope that Heuerman would finally have a breakout season. Well this year may be his best hope, yet.

The good

Before being knocked out for the last several weeks of the season with broken ribs, Heuerman was having his best statistical season with 31 catches, 281 yards, and two touchdowns. His breakout game in 2018 came two games before he was injured. In week 9 against the Texans, Heuerman exploded for 10 catches on 11 targets, 83 yards and a touchdown.

I broke down the film from his big game during the season here if you want to dig a little deeper on it.

Additionally, after struggling to get and stay on the field throughout his career, Heuerman was able to contribute on 50% of the teams offensive snaps this past season.

The bad

Aside from that one big game, Heuerman has struggled/failed to assert himself as a dominant force in the passing game. He has only logged two other games in his career with over five targets, and finished both the ‘16 and ‘17 seasons with only nine receptions as he struggled to stay on the field due to injuries.

Speaking of injuries, while 2018 was his “healthiest” season of his career so far, he still ended the season on IR, and only contributed 50% of snaps.

Quotable

On his role this next season

“Honestly, no matter what I want to show up every day, and I’m going to do what’s asked of me and work as hard as I can. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to do—whether it’s blocking, running routes or whatever it is.”

On re-signing with the Broncos

“I knew it was the right decision all along. Friday when I kind of finalized it is when I went through everything and really made the decision. This is where I wanted to be. This is where my NFL career started. As a player, you want to finish where you start. That is my ultimate goal.”

On suffering a season-ending injury last season while he was having his best statistical season

“It was very frustrating. It was one of those things where I took a shot, kind of got the wind knocked out of me—it was one of those things where I caught my wind, got back to the sideline and just kind of told myself ‘your good, your good.’ I went back out there for a couple more plays and I was feeling it at that point. It was frustrating because it was one of those things where I didn’t feel like I should’ve been done for the year. But when you have a punctured lung and that pneumothorax type thing, it’s hard to get cleared in four to five weeks. I think when I got hurt there were five or six weeks left in the season. It was kind of on that fringe. If we would have made the playoffs at that point, I would’ve been cleared, healthy and good to go for that run. It was frustrating because of the situation we were in as a team. Having to be put down for the rest of the year was tough.”

Jeff Heuerman’s roster status with the Broncos

Heuerman was re-signed by Denver this offseason on a two year deal that is essentially a one year $3.5M contract with a team option for one more year at $4.5M. If he doesn’t perform up to expectations this year, the Broncos can move on with only $500k in dead money.

With the acquisition of Noah Fant in this year’s draft, Heuerman and Jake Butt will be competing for tight end 1b in Scangarello’s offense. Due to his experience, I think Heuerman has a good shot at claiming that #2 TE role. However, to stay with the team beyond this year, I think he’ll have to really carve out a significant role in the offense and establish himself as a reliable pass catching target, which he has yet to do so far.

Fortunately, Rich Scangarello’s offense is tight end friendly, and while Noah Fant is expected to be the main recipient, Heuerman could definitely benefit from it as well. Once again, this offseason is Heuerman’s time to shine. Hopefully he can take advantage.