Jeff Heuerman

Broncos To Release TE Jeff Heuerman

The Broncos are removing one of the players from a crowded tight end competition early. They are taking the most experienced of these performers out of the mix, with Mike Klis of 9News tweeting the team will release Jeff Heuerman.

A Bronco since their 2015 Super Bowl championship season, Heuerman was drafted during the Gary Kubiak regime. He stayed on through Vic Fangio‘s first season, but the Broncos made multiple additions to their tight end room this offseason. That will end a five-plus-year stay for the former third-round pick.

Denver signed Nick Vannett in free agency and drafted former Drew Lock Mizzou teammate Albert Okwuegbunam in Round 4. They join 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli and Austin Fort on the Broncos’ roster.

Heuerman did not quite live up to expectations, with injuries limiting the Ohio State product. Heuerman missed his entire rookie season. The Broncos re-signed him to a two-year deal in 2018, but he ended that year on IR. The 27-year-old tight end was set to make $3MM this season. With this cut, the Broncos will save $3.875MM.

For his career, Heuerman has 63 receptions for 678 yards and five touchdowns. He started 11 games last season and played a career-high 52% of Denver’s snaps in 2018, before going down with lung and rib injuries. But Fant’s role is expected to grow in 2020, and the Vannett and Okwuegbunam additions likely leave room for either zero or one of the non-Fant holdovers on this year’s roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Rumors: Broncos, Gordon, Chiefs

Melvin Gordon is sticking in the AFC West in 2020 after defecting from the Chargers to the Broncos, and the veteran running back feels Denver’s offense is much more suited to his playing style, as he described to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

“They run a lot of inside zones, and that’s what I did a lot at Wisconsin,” Gordon said, noting that he never felt truly comfortable in Los Angeles’ offensive scheme. “It’s going to really help me get back in the feel of what I do best. I’m an inside-zone runner.”

How Gordon’s role will play out in Denver remains to be seen. Phillip Lindsay, who topped 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first two NFL seasons, remains on the Broncos’ roster, as does Royce Freeman. But Gordon, who inked a two-year, $16MM deal ($13.5MM guaranteed), figures to be Denver’s primary back.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Chiefs wideout Mecole Hardman made the Pro Bowl as a returner during his rookie campaign in 2019, but his role on special teams may be scaled back going forward. Kansas City special teams coach Dave Toub says that while he doesn’t want to lose Hardman’s return skills, the former second round pick may not handle as much ST duty as his role on the Chiefs’ offense increases (Twitter link via James Palmer of NFL.com). Hardman posted 26 receptions for 538 yards and six touchdowns a season ago, but those numbers could increase if he leapfrogs Sammy Watkins to become KC’s No. 2 wide receiver.
  • Free agent signee Nick Vannett is expected to replace Jeff Heuerman as a backup Broncos tight end, as Mike Klis of 9News writes. Vannett left the Steelers to sign a two-year, $5.7MM deal with Denver, while Heuerman has one year and $4MM remaining on his pact. It’s highly unlikely that Denver will choose to retain tight ends given their similar skill set, so Heureman looks like a candidate to be released.
  • Frank Clark played an integral role in bringing former Cowboys/Dolphins defensive end Taco Charlton to the Chiefs.

Contract Details: Williams, Webb, Verrett

Here are the latest particulars in recently agreed-upon contracts, courtesy of the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (unless otherwise noted).

Broncos Re-Sign TE Jeff Heuerman

Jeff Heuerman is returning to Denver. Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reports (via Twitter) that the tight end is signing a two-year, $9MM deal with the Broncos.

The 2013 third-round pick has spent his entire four-year career with the Broncos, including a 2018 campaign where he established himself as a legitimate threat in the passing game. Heuerman finished the campaign with career-highs across the board, including receptions (31), receiving yards (281), and touchdowns (two).

The 26-year-old earned more praise from Pro Football Focus for his blocking ability, with the site ultimately ranking him 41st among 70 eligible tight ends. The tight end’s season ended on the injured reserve after he suffered three broken ribs and a bruised lung.

The Broncos lost tight end Matt LaCosse to the Patriots, meaning Heuerman will presumably slide behind Jake Butt on the team’s tight end depth chart. Denver is also rostering Troy Fumagalli and Temarrick Hemingway.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos’ Jeff Heuerman, Shaquil Barrett Suffer Injuries

The Broncos have climbed back into the AFC wild card race after consecutive wins, but their most recent victory saw key contributors go down.

Both Jeff Heuerman and Shaquil Barrett suffered injuries during the Broncos’ 24-17 win over the Steelers, and in the tight end’s case, that will mean an IR trip. Heuerman has broken ribs and a bruised lung and is out for the rest of the season, Mike Klis of 9News reports (on Twitter). Vance Joseph confirmed Heuerman, whom Klis notes broke three ribs, is done for the year.

Barrett, used as an off-the-bench pass rusher, will be out for a few weeks because of a hip flexor issue, Klis adds.

While the Broncos have a deep group of edge defenders, they are now quite thin at tight end. Jake Butt is already on IR. Matt LaCosse, who scored his first touchdown Sunday, will be the next man up. Klis adds (via Twitter) the Broncos are expected to promote Temarrick Hemingway from their practice squad.

A fourth-year tight end out of Ohio State, Heuerman’s delivered his best season since arriving in Denver as a third-round pick. Injuries and inconsistency previously ailed Heuerman, but he’d become a steady option for Case Keenum since the trade of Demaryius Thomas. Heuerman caught 18 passes over the past three games and has 281 receiving yards this season. This, though, will be a tough blow for his value. A free agent-to-be, Heuerman only has 49 career catches for 564 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons.

The Broncos hope Barrett, also a contract-year player, will miss only two games, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. He was one of this year’s top restricted free agents, and the Broncos applied as second-round tender to their 2014 UDFA find. A plus run defender in a high-end pass-rushing group, Barrett has three sacks this season. Denver still has 2015 first-round pick Shane Ray as a key second-string edge rusher, and UDFA Jeff Holland resides on its practice squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Steelers, Broncos, Titans

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey‘s career could end when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s does, relays Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Pouncey’s still young (he’ll turn 28 in July), but it’s possible the seventh-year man and five-time Pro Bowler would rather hang it up than continue with someone other than Roethlisberger, who mulled retirement after last season and is entering his age-35 campaign. “It will be hard for me to come back if he’s not here,” Pouncey said of Roethlisberger. “Whenever you’re playing with that level of quarterback, to try to switch that up would be a different mojo for everybody on the team. … I’m glad he came back. We need him to win a championship around here.”

More on Pittsburgh and two other AFC clubs:

  • Three Broncos who have gone high in recent drafts, wide receiver Cody Latimer, offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo and tight end Jeff Heuerman, will have to fight for their roster spots in training camp, observes Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post. Latimer, a second-rounder in 2014, hasn’t made much of an impact as a receiver (16 career catches), and he’s not in position to change that with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie ahead of him on the depth chart. As such, his best hope is to make the Broncos as a special teamer, posits Wolfe, who expects that to happen. Sambrailo, meanwhile, went in the second round a year later and has only totaled 13 appearances and seven starts. Even if he cracks the Broncos’ roster, Sambrailo seems likely to serve as primarily a backup again, as the team spent a first-rounder on tackle Garett Bolles this year after adding fellow bookend Menelik Watson on a three-year, $18.3MM deal in free agency. And then there’s Heuerman, a 2015 third-rounder who missed his entire rookie year with a torn ACL and then caught nine passes in 12 games last season. He’ll have to fend off Henry Krieger-Coble to make the team, notes Wolfe. Denver’s other tight end options include Virgil Green, A.J. Derby and fifth-rounder Jake Butt, a former Michigan standout who’s working back from the torn ACL he suffered in his final college game last December.
  • As a rookie last season, fifth-rounder Tajae Sharpe finished second among Titans wide receivers in catches (41), targets (83) and yards (522) in 2016. Nevertheless, it seems he’ll enter camp with a weak hold on a roster spot, writes Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean. The Titans used two valuable picks on receivers – Corey Davis in the first round and Taywan Taylor in the third – in the spring and then signed established veteran Eric Decker last week. Those additions combined with Sharpe’s questionable health (he recently underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot) and a police investigation over an alleged assault have the 22-year-old in limbo, according to Wolf.
  • The fact that the Steelers have a deep receiving corps means third-year man Sammie Coates will have to battle for a spot in camp, suggests Fowler. Coates was a relatively high selection in 2015, when he went in Round 3 of the draft, but the ex-Auburn star has totaled just 22 receptions in 21 games as a Steeler. A broken finger and a groin injury likely contributed to Coates’ underwhelming output last season (21 catches on 49 targets, two touchdowns), and he indicated that he’s nearing full health with camp approaching. “I’m getting there. It’s a process,” said Coates, who underwent sports hernia surgery over the winter. “That’s what this process is for, to get your body back so you can compete during camp.”

AFC Notes: Amendola, Sanchez, Mettenberger

Patriots receiver Danny Amendola underwent a pair of surgeries this offseason, reports Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. The 30-year-old had surgery on his injured left knee, and he also had an operation to remove a bone spur in his ankle. Despite these ailments, Amendola still managed to play 14 games last season, compiling 65 catches for 648 yards and three touchdowns.

There is hope that Amendola will be healthy enough for training camp, but the organization is not planning on rushing him back. Since it’s so early in the process, Howe notes that there is “no guarantee” that the wideout will be ready for Week 1.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC…

  • Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez injured his left thumb in the weight room last week, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). The 29-year-old underwent surgery on Saturday, but he is only expected to miss “a few OTAs.”
  • Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman says he’s back to 100% on his knee, as Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post tweets. Heuerman, the 92nd overall pick in last year’s draft, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during rookie camp last year and missed the entire 2015 season.
  • Indianapolis castoff Bjoern Werner could be another late bloomer for the JaguarsHays Carlyon of The Florida Times-Union writes. Buffalo struck gold in the 2013 offseason when they traded with Indy for defensive end Jerry Hughes, a player who many had written off. Since then, Hughes has racked up 25 sacks for Jacksonville over the last three seasons. Werner has yet to produce in the NFL, but he is still just 25 years old and could theoretically turn things around with a change of scenery. The Jaguars signed Werner to a prove-it deal late last week.
  • The Titans released Zach Mettenberger today in order to give him a chance to do his OTAs and minicamp with a team and learn their system, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC West Notes: Fisher, Aldon, San Diego, Broncos

With fifth-year option decisions due Tuesday, May 3, the Chiefs are procrastinating — at least publicly — on their choice on whether or not to pick up Eric Fisher‘s.

I know a lot of guys have been exercising these options on players right now,” Chiefs GM John Dorsey said (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “I do things a little bit different. I think what I do is, I’m, at times, compartmentalizing a little bit too much. So really, the task at hand, for me, is to make sure we nail this draft. And I think when we get to Monday, we’ll deal with Monday.”

Fisher would be due a guaranteed-against-injury $11.9MM in 2017 if the Chiefs pick up their left tackle’s option. The No. 1 overall pick in 2013, Fisher improved last season after an unremarkable initial two years. But at $11.9MM, he’d stand to be the fourth-highest-paid tackle in 2017 — behind only Tyron Smith, Trent Williams and Anthony Castonzo. And by waiting until the draft is over, the Chiefs appear to be keeping their options open regarding their blind-side protector’s future, considering he hasn’t yet shown himself worthy of a cornerstone-type contract similar to the ones the aforementioned players received.

Kansas City has already participated in extension talks with Fisher in a likely effort to bring that prospective $11.9MM cap number down for a franchise that doesn’t look to have much cap space come next year, with most of its key players locked in for the next two seasons.

Here’s the latest from the AFC West.

  • Speaking at a stadium rally in San Diego on Saturday, Roger Goodell endorsed keeping the Chargers in the city and said that if the downtown stadium initiative goes through, the Super Bowl will return to San Diego. “I said it. I mean it. The Chargers belong in San Diego,” the commissioner said (via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, on Twitter). The Super Bowl last came to the city in 2003, with Qualcomm Stadium — now considered one of the worst in the game — hosting Super Bowl XXXVIII.
  • Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Dean Spanos also spoke in support of the $1.8 billion stadium/convention center project, although as Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune points out, the words “convention center” weren’t spoken by any of the guest speakers at the signature-collecting showcase that drew around 4,000. “I mean, dadgumit. … It just makes sense right? I hope I’m still around to play in it. Let’s get it done together,” said Rivers, who wasn’t enthusiastic about relocating to Los Angeles when the subject surfaced last year.
  • Aldon Smith‘s trial is set to begin May 2, Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com reports. The recently re-signed Raiders edge presence faces three charges from the August 2015 incident that led to his release from the 49ers — DUI with a prior conviction, hit and run and vandalism under $400 — according to Bair. Smith remains suspended for a substance-abuse policy violation and can’t return to aid the Raiders on Sundays until November, but the sixth-year veteran must be reinstated by Goodell. That hasn’t been a smooth process for recent offenders.
  • Free agent linebacker Nick Moody remains on track to testify at Smith’s trial despite a judge issuing a warrant for his arrest for failure to appear in a Florida court to confirm this, Florio reports. Moody now insists his failure to appear in court Friday stemmed from a miscommunication. Moody spent two years with the 49ers before playing in three games with the Seahawks in 2015.
  • The Raiders are showing “serious interest” in Utah interior lineman Siaosi Aiono, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).
  • The Broncos spent plenty of time trying to re-sign Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson, and the defending champions added two tackles expected to start during the offseason. But they released Owen Daniels and didn’t make an attempt to bring back Vernon Davis, who signed with Washington. This could be due to the team’s high hopes for second-year tight end Jeff Heuerman, who missed his rookie slate with a torn ACL. “We expect (Heuerman) to step in and be a force,” GM John Elway told media, including Troy Renck of the Denver Post. “We’re counting on (Heuerman) big time,” Gary Kubiak said. “We feel like Jeff can be a total tight end. He’s not just a receiver. We think he has the ability to do both (catch and block).” A former third-round pick, Heuerman wasn’t known for his receiving chops at Ohio State. The 6-foot-5 tight end hauled in 792 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in four years, playing extensively as a junior and senior. Virgil Green is the only experienced tight end on the roster, so it may behoove the team to add some depth at this spot.

Broncos Rumors: Daniels, RG3, QB, Norwood

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak addressed reporters on Tuesday morning at the NFL owners’ meetings and we have the highlights from his scrum right here, courtesy of Troy Renck of The Denver Post:

  • Kubiak said that he has big plans for tight end Jeff Heuerman and he sees him as a complete tight end, Renck tweets. Of more import to us at PFR, Kubiak says that he hasn’t ruled out bringing Owen Daniels back. Daniels had two years left on his contract but was released by Denver earlier this month. The veteran tight end, who will turn 34 in November, caught 46 balls for 517 yards and three touchdowns during his lone season in Denver.
  • Kubiak said the team is in “no hurry” to add quarterback. “We talk about it everyday. The important thing is to get it right and not rush it,” the coach said (link via Renck).
  • Robert Griffin III is on the “list” of quarterbacks being considered by the team, though they are looking at plenty of options (link). A report on Monday indicated that RG3 could be Cleveland-bound this week.
  • Kubiak said that he talked to Jordan Norwood on Monday and he says it’s a sign of how much the team wants the wide receiver back in the fold (link).
  • The coach wants a fullback on the roster again and the team is looking at options in the draft, Renck tweets. The Broncos wanted to have a fullback in 2015, but that didn’t pan out due to James Casey‘s knee issues.

Broncos Waive 9; Trade Chris Clark To Texans

The Broncos made a whole lot of moves today as they get set to trim their roster down to 75. Among their transactions, Denver traded tackle Chris Clark to the Texans for a seventh-round choice in 2016, as Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com tweets. The sixth-year offensive tackle appeared in 69 games (27 starts) with Denver during the last five seasons. Prior to that, Clark spent two years competing on Minnesota’s practice squad.

The team also announced a litany of transactions on Monday morning. Vested veteran Reggie Walker has been cut loose while nine other players were waived:

Released:

  • Reggie Walker, ILB

Waived:

  • Tevrin Brandon, CB
  • Andre Davis, G
  • Joe Don Duncan, TE/FB
  • Zac Dysert, QB
  • Spencer Lanning, P
  • Ross Madison, S
  • Jake Murphy, TE
  • Jeremy Stewart, RB
  • Chase Vaughn, OLB

Walker, a former special-teams standout for the rival Chargers, was signed in March but unable to win a job amongst a competitive group of inside linebackers. That batch of ILBs includes 2014 draft picks Corey Nelson and Lamin Barrow. In addition to the moves listed above, Denver also placed third-round pick Jeff Heuerman on injured reserve.