Colby Wadman Jersey

A collection of Broncos attended the Denver Rescue Mission’s 19th annual holiday dinner party Monday night, with several players serving hot meals, handing out gifts and decorating cookies with children of families in the non-profit’s transitional housing program.

One player in specific, No. 3 with the red beard and Santa hat, doesn’t often get recognized as a football player out in public. On this night, though, one thankful rescue mission resident approached him with: “Hey, you’re the punter.”

Colby Wadman chuckled.

“I’m OK with that,” he said. “Being a punter, I do my job and not really worry about who is getting the glory.”

But a string of exceptional on-field performances is drawing more attention.
The Broncos’ misfire of signing former Raiders’ punter Marquette King looks less painful by the week with Wadman — undrafted from UC Davis in 2017, signed to the Broncos’ practice squad in September and activated since Week 5 at the Jets — quickly proving his value.

Wadman, in the midst of gusting winds at Cincinnati last week, dropped four of six punts inside the Bengals’ 20-yard line with a 42.7-yard net average. Afterward, he was presented a game ball.

“That was the first time I’ve ever gotten a game ball,” he said. “I’d never gotten one all through college or high school. So it was a pretty cool experience, honestly, something I definitely was pretty proud of and happy about.”

Wadman’s road to Denver began in 2017 when he hosted a workout for then Colts’ special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, who later extended an invitation to attend Indianapolis’ minicamp. Wadman got cut, but he left an indelible impression on McMahon, who came away convinced that Wadman would “be in the National Football League for a lot of years.”
Wadman received another chance to be taught by McMahon, who joined the Broncos’ coaching staff this year.

“The bottom line is, what I look for is the strongest leg I can find,” McMahon said.

One of Wadman’s more impressive boots came vs. the Steelers. He launched a punt 50 yards in the air and bounced it inside the Pittsburgh 5-yard line. Wide receiver Tim Patrick downed it at the 3.

“He put the football exactly where it’s supposed to be,” Patrick said. “We definitely give him love all the time because if he’s doing his job, it makes our job a whole lot easier, and he definitely knows how much we appreciate what he does.”

Added safety Will Parks: “It gives us confidence that if he kicks it right there, they’re not scoring. We know that.”

Wadman is thankful to be valued on a team still in the playoff chase entering Sunday’s game at the 49ers. He likes to give back, too, which is why he volunteered to help hungry families this week. And, week by week he’s building a good case to secure a long-term job with the Broncos.
“As each game goes on I feel more comfortable and confident,” Wadman said. “To go out there, relax and know I’ve done this so many times in my life. I’m just kicking a ball out here having fun. It’s been a great experience so far.”

Especially when pinning the opponent deep in its own territory.

“Making a team go 97 or 98 yards is a huge play. I go back, celebrate with my teammates, and with whoever is the one making that play, and enjoy that moment,” he said.

Jared Veldheer Jersey

We already knew that the Broncos are hoping to re-sign offensive lineman Billy Turner. During his NFL combine press conference on Wednesday, general manager John Elway confirmed that the team would like to re-sign offensive tackle Jared Veldheer as well.

“We’re taking a look at Billy Turner and trying to get something done with Billy Turner as well as Jared,” Elway said. He also confirmed that the team will bring back offensive guard Ron Leary, who is recovering from an Achilles injury.
Veldheer will turn 32 years old this summer and missed four games with a knee injury last year but there aren’t many quality offensive tackles available in free agency this offseason. He earned a base salary of $6.5 million in 2018.

While Elway did say the team would like to bring Veldheer back, he certainly didn’t imply that that offensive lineman is guaranteed to return.

“I’d love to bring all our guys back, but there’s only so much we can do,” Elway explained. “That’s why until you get to the market and see where everything is. That’s where everything becomes realistic.

“We can talk about it and evaluate and say what we’d like right now, but until we see what’s out there and what’s involved, it’s hard to be concrete with which direction.”
Before making any cap-saving cuts, Denver is expected to have around $25.5 million in salary cap space this offseason.

Connor McGovern Jersey

More than 30 minutes after his final public workout prior to the NFL draft had ended, Connor McGovern was nowhere to be found.

Some half of an hour earlier, McGovern walked straight off the field and out the exit doors and off-site of the Holuba Hall Indoor Practice Facility, accompanied by a Tennessee Titans scout who desperately wanted to meet with him.

It seems wherever he goes these days, from agents angling to represent him to NFL teams dreaming of a chance to select him, everybody wants a part of McGovern.

“Just trying to take one day at a time,” McGovern, a versatile guard/center at Penn State and former Lake-Lehman star, said. “I’m not trying to think about the draft right now.”

He admits that’s kind of difficult.

Especially when scouts from most of the NFL’s 32 teams flooded Holuba Hall for some final evaluations Tuesday during Penn State’s Pro Day.

That’s when wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins took the opportunity to turn heads with his hands, linebacker Koa Farmer proved he could be a plus in more ways than one at the next level of football and quarterback Trace McSorley showed he has all the necessary skills to be a legitimate NFL quarterback — not cornerback.

“I believe I’m a quarterback,” said McSorley, dismissing talk by some draft experts suggesting he may be a better NFL fit in the defensive backfield and insisting he didn’t hear any teams he talked with urging him to switch positions. “That’s where I put a lot of hard work into training, made my investment. In my heart and in my soul, I’m a quarterback.”

He was a record-setting one at Penn State, and once again proved why on Pro Day.

A total of three passes hit the ground during his 20 minutes on the field, as McSorley kept connecting with darts to various angles and distances, showed a deftness in his drop after spending his whole collegiate career taking shotgun snaps and displayed splendid accuracy hitting targets while on the move.

He did need some help, though.

In particular, Thompkins made a spectacular snag of a 10-yard touchdown throw, whirling his body completely around to pull down a bullet that was both high and behind him in the right corner of the end zone. This came after Thompkins made a sliding grab of a sinking 20-yard throw to the center of the field.

“I still don’t think I’ve reached my potential yet,” said Thompkins, who projects to be a receiver and punt returner in the NFL. “I have a lot to learn. I’m excited to learn at the next level. I do play both, wide receiver and punt return. The more versatile you are, the more they (NFL teams) like you.”

That’s Farmer’s attitude.

The linebacker was out to prove himself Tuesday as a do-it-all option, even going so far as to say he’d feel comfortable taking snaps from center.

“I will play anywhere on the field, except for offense line and defensive line,” Farmer said. “My story at Penn State was, I was playing a different position every year. So I just wanted to show my versatility (Tuesday). I can play quarterback. I’m that confident. I’ll play offense, play defense. Whatever I can do to make a 53-man (NFL) roster, I’ll do.”

McGovern really didn’t have to do much Tuesday.

Satisfied with his performance at the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis, McGovern opted not to take part in the timed Pro Day dash drills, but recorded a 9-4 in the broad jump, a 4.57 in the pro shuttle and a 7.66 in the L drill — which included players running back and forth between cones to form the shape of a letter L.

“I was very comfortable with everything I did out there (in Indianapolis),” said McGovern, adding he talked to most of the NFL’s team representatives at the combine.

Instead, he concentrated more on displaying his prowess on various blocking techniques — including drills that had him taking on two pass rushers at once, fending off charging defenders with multiple arm positions and showcasing some fancy footwork with his arms behind his back.

“It’s just, several teams use different techniques, and you want to show them you can do them,” said McGovern, who will continue working out on his own at Penn State but will return to his Northeastern Pennsylvania home to host an NFL Draft party when the event opens with the first round on April 25. “I thought it went very well, did some good position work.”

McGovern said he’ll complete his school work at Penn State over the summer.

A true junior and Agribusiness management major, McGovern declared early for the NFL Draft and points out he is just 19 credits shy of obtaining his degree from Penn State — a big factor in his decision to make himself available to NFL teams.

“If I would have been a little further from graduation, that would have been a big factor for me,” McGovern said.

The position he plays in the NFL isn’t.

McGovern, who said he has heard talk he may be chosen as high as the second round of the draft, said the NFL teams he’s spoken with are evenly split while envisioning him as a guard or a center. And his 6-foot-6, 311-pound frame also makes McGovern an ideal option to line up at offensive tackle for a team that needs help at that spot.

“I’ve asked the question,” McGovern said of where he may fit in with the NFL, “most were a split down the middle. But all of them liked the versatility. As a lineman, I can play in any one of those spots, I can play all five. You only get to keep seven, maybe eight (offensive linemen) in the NFL. I think versatility helps.”

Ja’Wuan James Jersey

To understand Ja’Wuan’s appreciation for becoming a Bronco and the richest tackle in NFL history requires a trip back to Christmas Day, 2001, to the living room of an Atlanta suburb.


Long before James received a Tennessee football scholarship, became a first-round NFL draft pick and started five seasons with the Dolphins, he was an unruly 9-year-old opening presents in his Suwanee, Georgia, home specifically wrapped by mom. James didn’t like what he found inside.

A Hammer. Screwdrivers. More and more tools. Huh?

“That was a point in my life when I had a tough time appreciating things,” James said through a chuckle Friday shortly after his Broncos introductory news conference. “She was making an example.”

James didn’t forget the lesson. His mom, Nichelle James-Mickens, sat among reporters Friday in the team auditorium when James credited an important mentor: “My mother. She’s helped me become the man I am today to be able to stand up here in front of y’all.”
Tears welled up for James-Mickens. The tough love worked.

“I’ve always challenged him to believe in himself, to work hard and give it all he has,” James-Mickens said. “I think he learned that lesson from those tools. Since then, it registered that nothing in life is free. If you want it, you’ve got to work for it and be committed. He’s done that.”

Mom laid the groundwork for James’ NFL rise. His wife, Rainey Gaffin, helped steer James to Denver.

The pair married last month and first met as Tennessee student- athletes where Gaffin earned All-American honors twice on the softball diamond. Gaffin grew up in Thornton and starred on the Legacy softball team. So when James made the decision to sign a four-year, $51 million contract with the Broncos, it marked an unexpected homecoming.
“It was kind of surreal,” said Gaffin, who joined James-Mickens at the Friday news conference. “This is where we ended up and it’s super exciting. My home will always be with Ja’Wuan, but now I get to be surrounded by family. … They’re so excited. My phone blew up since with texts: ‘When are you going to get here? When are we going to eat? Where are you going to live?’”

Of course, James’ choice to join the Broncos was a business decision. The 6-foot-6, 312-pound right tackle fits well into Denver’s outside zone blocking scheme, general manager John Elway said, and the team is “planning on him solidifying that right tackle for us.” But James didn’t forget what the move to Denver means for Gaffin, either.
“It’s a blessing that everything fit so well,” James said. “She sacrificed a lot graduating from Tennessee and moving in with me. We ended up getting married two weeks ago and now we’re here. Her family is excited and there are going to be a lot of people in James jerseys running around.”

James’ reputation as a gentle giant off the field, despite his relentless aggressiveness on it, proved viable from his actions. He flew into Denver on Thursday night accompanied by the two people who mattered most. Family first.

“For me as a mom, it was amazing,” James-Mickens said. “To see the fruits of his labor and all that he’s done, Ja’Wuan has always been a hard worker and very committed to his craft. He was very excited to come to Denver. Watching the glow on his face getting on the plane, it just brought nothing but joy and excitement.”

Added Gaffin: “It really shows that when you put forth the effort, anything can come true.”

Kareem Jackson Jersey

Calling Kareem Jackson purely a safety or a cornerback is inaccurate. Over the course of his nine seasons with the Texans, the breadth of his work made him one of the NFL’s most versatile defensive backs, capable of working in any spot in the secondary.

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When he works at cornerback, he has the broad vision of a safety — and with it the ability to quickly analyze the offensive alignment in front of him. When a coach aligns him at safety, he brings an elite cornerback’s knack for distilling the superfluous moving parts down to his specific assignment.

He does both so well he admits that he doesn’t have a specific preference.

“I actually enjoy kind of floating around, playing a little bit of everywhere,” Jackson said. “I feel like that could be an advantage for us as a team game-planning-wise, just depending on what type of skill sets that the offense possesses in terms of the guys that they have.”

Few defensive backs have this sort of Swiss-army knife adaptability. Fewer still can play so many spots — and do so with solid-starter capability.

“It helps a lot with me being able to play the safety spot, just being able to see the entire field, and also preparing and knowing what the offenses are doing,” Jackson said Friday as he met Denver-area media for the first time as a Bronco.

“Being able to see the entire field on both sides — whether it’s receiver splits, recognizing how deep the back is or just little things like that. It also helps me playing corner as well and one side of the field. You kind of have to get a feel for receiver splits [and] formations. Just little things like that can definitely help in your preparing and going into the games on Sundays.”
The Broncos gained more flexibility in their use of Jackson after agreeing to terms with former Chicago Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan on Friday. In three-cornerback sub packages, Callahan can work in the slot, leaving Jackson to handle work on the outside.

Like Chris Harris Jr., Callahan can be used in two-cornerback sets, and the Broncos could use Callahan’s arrival to create opportunities for Jackson to work as a safety — both in the base defense or in some three-safety alignments.

“[Jackson] gives us a lot of options,” Head Coach Vic Fangio said. “Just from week to week we might be able to line him up where we feel he best fits to defend the team we’re playing. He’s smart enough to learn all the different positions. He’s proven it in games and on tape that he can execute the positions, not just know what do to do, but play them competitively and at a high level.

“It’s a big advantage and it helps when you’re looking at other players that you have guys that can move around.”

Jackson’s aggressiveness against the run and willingness to attack and not let others get tackles also pairs well with Harris, who is one of the league’s most active cornerbacks in rushing containment.

“Throughout my career, I’ve just always been that type of guy — [to] kind of get down in the line and be physical and tackle,” Jackson said.

That makes him perfect for Fangio’s defense. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Fangio called tackling a “non-negotiable” attribute in his evaluations of prospective Broncos. Jackson finished last year with 34 stops — tackles that result in a “loss” for the opposing offense — according to Pro Football Focus.

Jackson can do it all, and as he enters his 10th season, he’s doing it better than he ever has before. That’s why Fangio and President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway coveted him, and why he makes Denver’s defense better just by walking into the building.

Jeff Heuerman Jersey

Jeff Heuerman had few doubts about where he would end up during the 2019 free-agency cycle.

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The fifth-year tight end only briefly tested the market before agreeing to a new two-year deal with the Broncos — and he said Tuesday he had clarity throughout the process.

“I knew it was the right decision all along,” Heuerman said Tuesday after signing his contract. “Friday, when I kind of finalized it, was when we 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.”

The Ohio State product certainly has unfinished business with the Broncos, who have been looking for a consistent threat at the tight-end position over the last several seasons. President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said as much in late February at the NFL Combine.

“We’ve been trying to address that every year,” Elway said. “That’s a tough position now, especially when you’re talking about an in-line guy that is a blocker but can also be a good pass receiver. We don’t have a lot of in-line guys coming out of college like we used to because of what they’re doing in college ball opening things up and there’s more receivers coming out of college. It’s much more difficult finding the in-line tight ends than it’s ever been.”

Heuerman, a former third-round pick, looked like the answer for parts of 2018. He pieced together the best season of his career as he recorded 31 receptions, 281 yards and two touchdowns. But he also suffered a season-ending rib injury that sidelined him for the final five games of the season.

“It was very frustrating,” Heuerman said. “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 ‘you’re good, you’re 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.”

Heuerman was already no stranger to injuries. He tore his ACL in rookie minicamp in 2015 and missed the entire season, and he battled injuries in both 2016 and 2017, as well.

But he said Tuesday he’s ready to prove the best of his career is yet to come.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Every year you have to come — that is the thing about this business — you have to show what you can do every year. I’m looking forward to working with some of the new guys, [QB] Joe [Flacco] and a new offensive coordinator [Rich Scangarello]. I’m excited. It’s going to be fun.”

Heuerman said he’s watched tape of Scangarello’s 49ers offense that featured tight end George Kittle and of Flacco’s Baltimore unit that often relied upon the tight end.

And he’s also turned to watching his own film from the last several seasons. That included a Week 9 game against Houston that was the best of Heuerman’s career. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound player caught 10 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown that gave Denver a late lead.

“Yeah, trust me, I do a lot of self-study,” Heuerman said. “I look at not just that game. I look at all kinds of situations I’ve been in my career and try to build off of all of it.”
With a new two-year contact, Heuerman will have the chance to do exactly that.

Justin Simmons Jersey

Justin Simmons is one of the most athletic players on the Denver Broncos and is primed for a big year under Vic Fangio.

When the Denver Broncos drafted Justin Simmons in 2016 from Boston College, the team had to be impressed with the potential of the safety to roam the backend of their already dominant defense.

In his 2016 season he played in 13 games, only starting three, but the release of veteran safety TJ Ward opened the door for larger responsibility. Simmons responded with a very impressive 2017 season. He did not disappoint.
It became clear that season Simmons was a budding superstar at the safety position.

The field goal block heard around Broncos Country in the team’s win over Drew Brees and the Saints is one that set the stage for Simmons to be a focal point of the defense.

While the play happened on special teams it changed the course of the game in favor of Denver over New Orleans. This play was also a glimpse of the raw talent Simmons possesses. It does not stop there. When Amari Cooper was with the Oakland Raiders, Simmons made one of the most impressive interceptions I’ve seen.

EJ Manuel and Raiders had one final chance to make a play. Manuel tossed a prayer to Cooper, but Simmons high-pointed the football better than the wide receiver. Remember that. Simmons also had enough time to recognize the play and make an impact in the process.
All throughout the 2017 season, he showcased an impressive array of skills. Whether it was ball hawking, reading the quarterback’s eyes and tackling, he did it all.

Unfortunately, in 2018, it seemed like a great deal of these qualities left Simmons. That was the case with other players too, but the Denver Broncos were undisciplined in many areas on offense and defense.

However, there is a new head coach in town. Vic Fangio is a defensive mastermind that is capable of getting the most out of his players. Not to mention the emergence of two young safeties (Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos) with the Chicago Bears is a huge reason to believe Simmons can become a star.

Fangio can make Simmons a true safety capable of free roaming on the backend. Simmons intelligence is often unnoticed at times, but he is very smart to diagnose plays in the secondary.
Adding this trait to his ball skills and athleticism makes for a prototypical star at safety. The biggest advantage Simmons has is the height differential to translate his defensive prowess to any matchup. While it is not ideal for Simmons to play multiple positions, he can do it.

I’m here to tell you that Simmons will become that safety superstar in Denver and hopefully the foreseeable future. Maybe the largest reason a player performs at a high level is a contract year. Simmons is smart enough to shut out those distractions and he will put forth the best tape for Denver to sign him long-term.

Adam Gotsis Jersey

Semi-justifiably, the Broncos’ 2016 draft class will forever be graded poorly because of the failure of first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch.
But as the third pro season for the remainder of general manager John Elway’s selections winds down, the outlook is more positive. Defensive end Adam Gotsis (second round), safety Justin Simmons (third), center Connor McGovern (fifth), fullback Andy Janovich (sixth) and safety Will Parks (sixth) start or play major roles.

The league’s collective bargaining agreement allows a draft pick to sign a contract extension after their third year. As soon as Elway decides who his head coach is for 2019, Gotsis should be first up to get a new contract ahead of free agency.
Gotsis enters Monday night’s game in Oakland with 35 tackles and two sacks. Not eye-popping numbers, but he has flashed the kind of production that will make him valuable in this era of having a two-platoon defensive line.

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“It’s exciting knowing that (could) come in the future,” Gotsis said. “I feel like if I take care of what I have to on the field, the extension is going to be there when the time comes. Saying this or saying that won’t get it done for me. It’s just going out there and making plays.”

Gotsis has done just that during the Broncos’ second half. Statistically, he got off to a slow start this season.

First eight games: No sacks, one quarterback hit and one quarterback pressure. He had 5 1/2 run “stuffs” (gain of three or fewer yards).

But since the Week 9 Houston game, Gotsis’ production has increased significantly as the Broncos have climbed from last against the run after their sixth game (161.3 yards per game) to their current standing of 20th (120.2).

Last six games: Two sacks, two hits and a whopping 11 1/2 run “stuffs,” including 3 1/2 against Houston and 2 1/2 apiece against San Francisco and Cleveland. In 14 games, Gotsis has played 437 of 956 defensive snaps (45.7 percent).
Against the Browns, Gotsis made two huge plays. His sack (2.82 seconds) and forced fumble of quarterback Baker Mayfield was recovered by defensive end Derek Wolfe, ending a 9-minute, 11-second possession without any points. And, in the final two minutes, Gotsis knifed through the Browns’ offensive line for a fourth-down stop that gave the Broncos one final chance.

“The last month-and-a-half, he’s done a great job as far as rushing the passer, making plays in the run game and knocking (passes) down,” coach Vance Joseph said. “He’s got a bright future.”

Said Wolfe: “He’s made huge strides. He’s coming into his own and learning different techniques and picking up on different things.”

Gotsis and Wolfe play the same type of defensive end position, which has been a benefit for Gotsis.

“To see the way Derek has developed over the years and what he’s turned into, it’s definitely something I aspire to be,” Gotsis said. “He’s one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the game.”
Wolfe played out his four-year rookie contract before signing a four-year, $36.7 million contract in January 2016, two months before he would hit free agency. It is tough to project a contract for a 3-4 end like Gotsis because there is currently a very small middle class — the big money guys are Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Jurrell Casey and Stephon Tuitt (all have deals of at least $60 million) and only seven other players with contracts from $20-$59 million.

Working in Gotsis’ favor is his durability. Because of the physical demands of the position, it makes sense to have Gotsis and Wolfe back next year and be complemented by Zach Kerr (unrestricted free agent) and Shelby Harris (restricted free agent). And maybe a new staff will find a way to salvage the career of 2017 second-round pick DeMarcus Walker.

Before concerning himself with the business side, Gotsis wants to continue his incremental progress.

“The goal of the game is to get better every week,” he said. “Even the very best guys like Von (Miller) know they can improve on something. It’s understanding that and trying to improve on the little things, whether it’s playing this block or rushing the passer, and hopefully in the game, you get the opportunity to be successful. The work never stops.”

Jake Butt Jersey

ENGLEWOOD — Jake Butt is saying the words that every Broncos fan wants to hear after back-to-back losing seasons.

“I think everybody knows that we need to step it up,” Butt said. “What’s been going on these last couple years has not been acceptable and it’s not the Broncos brand of football.”

Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt celebrates after a completed pass during the fourth quarter on Sunday, September 9 at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.

Denver’s 2017 fifth-round NFL draft pick wants nothing more than to bolster that cause with dynamic tight end play that earned Butt the Mackey Award at Michigan. One big problem? His ability to stay off crutches.

Butt has torn his ACL thrice since 2014: His sophomore season at Michigan, in the Citrus Bowl as a senior, and another time last September with the Broncos during a Week 4 walk-through practice. He finished the year with eight catches for 85 yards over three starts.

Sunday, Butt served as a panel judge for the final cuts of Broncos cheerleading tryouts and gave an update on his health.

“I can’t go (practice), but I’m getting closer,” Butt said. “I’m about five months out right now. But rehab is going really well. I’m feeling great and I know the trainers are feeling good about where I’m at.”

There is no clear answer for how Butt will fit in Denver’s tight ends group upon his return. The Broncos re-signed Jeff Heuerman on a two-year deal, let Matt LaCosse go in free agency to New England and await the debut of 2018 fifth-round pick Troy Fumagalli (sports hernia). It’s also likely Denver selects a tight end in the upcoming draft with a wealth of quality options.
What motivates Butt is an opportunity to catch passes from new starting quarterback Joe Flacco, whose connection with former Ravens’ tight end Dennis Pitta (2010-16) resulted in 224 receptions for 2,098 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Broncos have not featured similar tight end production since Julius Thomas (2011-’14).

“The tight end room is really excited about having Joe,” Butt said. “There is going to be some opportunity for us.”

It’s easy to doubt Butt’s ability to bounce back from a third torn ACL equally as an effective blocker or receiver. But his only focus remains on the day-to-day grind he has endured twice before. He’s on track for an August return to the practice field.

“Every (ACL tear) is different,” Butt said. “This time, it’s been a pretty smooth recovery. I want to keep that going.”

Fumagalli cleared

The long-awaited return of another injured Broncos tight end is almost here. Fumagalli, who suffered through a sports hernia since he was drafted from Wisconsin last April, said he has been cleared to practice starting April 2.

“I’m really excited about it,” Fumagalli said. “I haven’t played in forever. It will be a blast to get back out there playing football again and putting the past behind me. I’m looking forward to it.”

Fumagalli hauled in 135 catches for 1,627 yards and seven touchdowns over four college seasons.

Garett Bolles Jersey

Another free agency period has come and gone and once again the Denver Broncos are less than set along the offensive line. For what feels like nearly a decade, the trenches along the offensive side of the ball have left the organization and fanbase wanting.

With the constant switching and struggles to find a solid right tackle, the myriad of left tackles with a propensity to draw flags from the officials, and a solid but unspectacular trio of interior players, the Broncos’ offensive line has continually left much to be desired.
State of the O-line

To be fair, the O-line did make a marked improvement last season. Up-and-down left tackle Garett Bolles seemed to be trending in the right direction over the last half of the season, with Jared Veldheer offering a steady presence at right tackle, and the interior, when healthy, played decently well.

Recently-departed OL Coach Sean Kugler, who is now in Tampa Bay, deserves some credit considering the injuries that the line faced last year and how good the blocking, especially for the ground game, was despite the shuffling of players along the front.

While the O-line did lose the likes of long-time center Matt Paradis and up-and-coming, versatile lineman Billy Turner, John Elway and the Broncos did make an impact signing on the O-line this offseason with the addition of former Dolphins’ first-round pick Ja’Wuan James to man right tackle for the foreseeable future. Jared Veldheer, who is still a free agent, did play decent last season but with his injury history and older age, Denver went with the upside play bringing in the long, young, and athletic James to play right tackle.

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James has had his bouts of inconsistencies during his tenure at Miami, but the upside is still tantalizing and garnered him enough intrigue on the market to become the highest paid right tackle in NFL history. On the other side of James, Garett Bolles will be given another year to man the blind side of the O-line.
Bolles has had an inconsistent start to his career, drawing the ire of fans due to his knack for losing his technique and falling into the bad habit of drawing holding calls, but his play had been improving. The former first-round pick has started to draw some concerns regarding the mental side of the game.

He will be given another year to prove himself at tackle, both in play and desire to be great. Next offseason the Broncos will have to decide his future in regards to their decision on his fifth-year option.

The addition of new OL Coach Mike Munchak will undoubtedly help the Broncos now and going forward. Considered one of the greatest O-line coaches currently in the NFL and arguably the second-best behind New England Patriots’ wizard Dante Scarnecchia, the Broncos’ O-line should be trending in the right direction in 2019. Given that the tackles also appear to be ‘set’ in 2019, the unit’s success will likely come down to how the interior rotation settles.

Connor McGovern had his ups and downs last year, but should be a serviceable player. He plays with strength and intensity but sometimes can struggle in one-on-one situations, especially against athletes with length such as New York’s Leonard Williams who beat up McGovern a few times. McGovern may be center or guard, but the drop off from Paradis after injury was felt in both snapping the ball in shotgun, as well as calling out protections pre-snap.

If lined up at center this year, McGovern will have an offseason to prepare for the responsibilities of the position. Ronald Leary is likely the most talented player on the interior, but he has already ended the last two seasons on injured reserve. Will he be ready Week 1, and for how long can he stay healthy? After those two, some combination of Elijah Wilkinson and Sam Jones will make up the interior, but both are projections at best as average starters in 2019.
Round two will again be the sweet spot for interior O-line

Will the Broncos look towards the draft to help add much-needed talent and competition to the interior? It does not seem like the Broncos will be using the No. 10 overall selection on an offensive lineman given that the team appears to be set in 2019 at tackle and there is no pure interior player of the quality of Quenton Nelson in this year’s class. One could argue for Alabama’s Jonah Williams who could start on the interior year one, push Bolles at left tackle, and give the team a backup plan in case they decide to move on from Bolles, but that doesn’t seem super likely at this moment.
However, round two of the draft seems like a great spot to pick up an interior offensive lineman that can start and be a good contributor year one. However, that may be a risk for the Broncos to expect to find a good interior offensive lineman in round two.

It was reported that last year the Broncos had hopes of landing a starting quality interior player round two of the draft. With the Broncos slated to have the No. 8 pick in the second round, 40th overall, and four highly-regarded interior offensive lineman on the board, Denver likely believed they had a shot to nab a high-end player in the second round.

However, with the round kicking off, a flurry of offensive linemen flew off the board, with Austin Corbett, Will Hernandez, Braden Smith, and James Daniels going in the first seven picks, which caused Denver to decide to select wide receiver Courtland Sutton. Many reports have indicated the Broncos would have liked Will Hernandez or James Daniels if they were still on the board.

The 2019 draft very well could play out the same exact way. While the Broncos likely feel they are in a prime spot to select an immediate starter on the interior at pick 41 of the second round, a run on offensive linemen seems like it could happen once again.

Perhaps the likes of Garrett Bradbury of North Carolina State, Chris Lindstrom of Boston College, Dalton Risner of Kansas State, and Erik McCoy of Texas A&M don’t even make it to the second round, but given the value of the fifth-year option of first-rounders, most interior offensive linemen don’t find their way into round one.

However, Denver very well could find themselves in a situation like last year where they wanted to take a starter on the O-line, but the players they liked are gone. The decision then comes down to taking the best player on the board, but leaving the interior vulnerable, or reaching to fill a need.

The likes of Wisconsin’s Michael Deiter, Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins, Ohio State’s Michael Jordan, Oklahoma’s Dru Samia, and Penn State’s Connor McGovern will all very likely be on the board at 41, but that would mean the Broncos are almost assuredly passing on better talent.
Don’t rule out a trade

The Broncos could attempt to trade up to secure ‘their guy’ on the interior, trading back up into the end of round one or to the top of round two, but that will likely carry a very heavy cost including either their second and third-rounder this year, or potentially even involving their 2020 first. Denver is not a single interior offensive lineman away from competing for a Super Bowl in 2019, so any trade involving their first in 2020 should be off the table.

Still, it could leave Denver in a very vulnerable position offensively. Given how important the push from interior offensive line is in the effectiveness of the zone run and keeping the immobile Joe Flacco upright and playing with confidence from within the pocket, if the interior plays as poorly as the currently listed starters, the offenses’ overall potential will be capped even with the guiding eye and development of Munchak.
Bottom line

The Broncos have finally appeared to take steps forward in stopping the bleeding along O-line. With the additions of offensive line coach extraordinaire Mike Munchak and upside of their new right tackle, the Broncos are trending in the right direction in the trenches.
However, with the multitude of questions along the interior ranging from McGovern’s best fit and effectiveness, Leary’s durability, and whoever shakes out as the third interior lineman, the interior looks like a black eye on the roster. The Broncos would likely love to address that position round two if possible with one of Bradbury, Risner, Lindstrom, or McCoy, but hoping one falls to 41 is extremely risky given the history of ‘runs’ on the position early in round two.

Munchak will have his work cut out for him, but Denver better have a plan B in case that a guy they want round two doesn’t happen to fall to them. Munchak will have his plate full either way, but if the Broncos are to jump back into AFC West contention, the offensive line must be better. With the interior having as many questions as they currently do before the draft, that might be a difficult ask in 2019.