Following their acquisition of A.J. Derby from the Patriots before the trade deadline, the Broncos became deep enough at tight end to release their corps’ most veteran member. The team cut John Phillips and promoted cornerback Taurean Nixon in advance of its Week 9 clash with the Raiders, Mike Klis of 9News reports.
The eighth-year veteran became a fill-in while both of its primary options, Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman, struggled with injuries this season. But both Green and Heuerman are now healthy, with Derby set to be active against Oakland, per Klis, after acclimating sufficiently to the Broncos’ playbook.
Phillips signed with the Broncos just before training camp and beat out slightly higher-profile addition Garrett Graham for a backup tight end job but ended up starting three games and playing all eight Denver contests. A former Cowboys sixth-round pick in 2009, Phillips has started 35 games in his career — starting at least one game in each of the seasons in which he’s been healthy. He played alongside Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green for the Chargers from 2013-15. This season, the 29-year-old Phillips rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 21 tight end, mostly on the strength of his blocking.
The defending Super Bowl champions have not received much from their tight end position this season, with Green’s 150 receiving yards leading the way. Phillips has five receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown this season.
Aqib Talib‘s injury induced this move as well, with the standout corner being ruled out for the pivotal road tilt due to a back injury. Kayvon Webster‘s questionable status leaves the Broncos with three healthy corners, so Nixon — a seventh-round pick last year — will be summoned as a result.
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