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Denver Broncos roster review: The Tight Ends

We have covered the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Now let’s dive in and discuss Denver’s crop of tight ends.

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Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Resuming my series on evaluating the Denver Broncos positional groups across the roster, I’m coming back to finalize the offensive side of the ball with the tight ends and offensive lineman.

This installment will focus on the team’s tight ends, who are solidly four deep and all offer some sort of value and versatility with their skill sets. Let’s take a deeper look at this unit and what they are poised to accomplish in 2023.

The Talented Starter

Greg Dulcich

A rodd narrative was developed by various reporters from the Broncos media when Sean Payton gave a short-worded answer relative to his knowledge and studying of Dulcich during this year’s combine. Some of the evaluation “was hard”—leading some to believe the Broncos’ newly-crowned head coach wasn’t a fan of the second-year player out of UCLA.

Fast forward a few months later and Dulcich was one of the player’s Payton raved about during OTAs. Funny how that works. Perhaps it’s best to not write off an extraordinarily talented second-year player before the new coach sees what he can do in offensive installations. Just something to remember.

If he can stay healthy, Dulcich might just have some of the highest upside and opportunity for a big second-year jump compared to any other offensive weapon on the roster. Payton has a history of getting great production out of players like Jeremy Shockey and Jimmy Graham, so it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to have Dulcich emerge as one of the most productive offensive players on the team.

With a stacked wide receiver corps, opposing defenses can’t cover everyone. I think that will also help Payton draw up precise plays that allow him to thrive this coming season. I’m a big believer in Dulcich and think he will have a breakout year.

The Blocking Stalwart

Chris Manhertz

Every tight end unit in the league needs a player who excels as a blocker. That is exactly why the Broncos went out and signed Manhertz to a two-year, $6 million dollar deal this past free agency period.

Playing for three teams prior to landing with Denver, Manhertz has been in the league since 2016 and is known for his blocking prowess as opposed to receiving skills. According to ProFootballFocus, he was one of the most consistent blockers in both the pass and run last season.

That will play well for Denver has they looked to improve upon a rushing attack that struggled in goal line and short-yardage conversions last season.

Payton’s Pal

Adam Trautman

The Broncos appeared to be interested in drafting a tight end in the past draft, but short on picks and with their top targets off the board, George Paton and Sean Payton opted to strike a deal and trade for Trautman on Day 3 of the draft. It was a savvy move to help round out the depth at the position and give Denver another weapon in the passing game.

A third-round pick for the New Orleans Saints in the 2020 NFL Draft, he has appeared in 43 games with 28 starts posting 50 receptions for 528 yards and 4 touchdowns. In the event Dulcich were to miss some time, Trautman can come in and help alleviate some of the burden and already knows what Payton likes to do on offense.

I think Denver’s in good shape with him as a complimentary tight end capable of various roles in the offense. Every team needs a versatile player like him at the position and he will be fighting for a shot to get a contract extension after the season is over.

Last Chance, Last Dance

Albert Okwuegbunam

Okwuegbunam fell off the face of the Earth last season. For reasons unknown, he seemed to fall out of favor with Denver’s previous regime and only played in eight games. That always struck me as a bit odd, but maybe there is more to the story we don’t know.

That being said, it’s now or never for the former Missouri Tigers standout. It’s the last year of his rookie deal and final shot to impress the new coaching staff. Maybe a fresh start for him in a new system will help, but with Dulcich and Trautman ahead of him on the depth chart, I’m not sure what type of impact we can expect from him.

At 6’6 and 258 pounds, I’d like to think that Payton could find a way to get him targets in the red zone. That seems to be the primary area where he could provide an advantage in key situations. That appears like the best shot with the highest upside to stick as the fourth and final tight end on this year’s final 53-man roster.

Hart’s Position Group Grade: B+

In addition to the aforementioned, the Broncos have Nate Adkins and Tommy Hudson fighting for a job, but I don’t see a scenario where they beat out any of the aforementioned.

It appears that Payton has historically kept four tight ends on the active roster most years he has coached. In the event they go down to just three, I wouldn’t be surprised if Denver floated Okwuegbunam in trade offers prior to the final roster cutdown. I wouldn’t expect much in return since he is in the final year of his rookie contract, but perhaps a late-round pick or a swap for other position depth could be in order.

At any rate, I think Dulcich will emerge as a top threat in this offense and feel very comfortable with their depth. I’m really excited to see how they perform as a group and feel they will do much better than last year’s unit.