A.J. Derby released, despite leading Denver tight ends in catches, yards and TDs

Oct 1, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tight end A.J. Derby (83) pulls in the football for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos tight end A.J. Derby had clearly become the best receiving threat among the teams’ underwhelming tight end corps, leading in catches (19), yards (224) and touchdowns (2). In fact, his two touchdowns tied him for the Broncos’ lead with star receivers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and his receiving yardage total was good for third on the entire team — once again, behind only Thomas and Sanders.

Nevertheless, the Broncos released him on Saturday and promoted Austin Traylor from their practice squad, a move that embedded KUSA reporter Mike Klis suggested was something of a statement move from football boss John Elway.

The Broncos, who will face the Bengals on Sunday, have only two tight ends on the roster: Traylor and veteran Virgil Green; both of whom are known as blockers, not receivers. The Broncos’ coaching staff spoke of ‘simplifying’ the offense all week in practice — it appears as if throwing to the tight end as a major component of the offense may be out the window this season after rookie Jake Butt was ruled out for the season thanks to an ACL injury he suffered in his final college bowl game.