The Denver Broncos have had some great tight ends over the years.

Of course, Shannon Sharpe is one of the best tight ends in the history of the NFL. In his amazing career, Sharpe caught 815 passes, and scored 62 touchdowns. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Riley Odoms was a four-time Pro Bowler that logged 41 receiving touchdowns in his career. Julius Thomas racked up some incredible numbers while playing with Peyton Manning, Clarence Kay was one of John Elway’s favorite targets, and Daniel Graham and Dwayne Carswell both made significant contributions while playing in Denver.

Yet for the last two seasons under head coach Gary Kubiak, the tight end in Denver has gone the way of the DVD, public phone booths and newspapers. They just aren’t being used much anymore.

During those two seasons, Broncos tight ends have caught just 131 passes and scored only six touchdowns. Compare that to the two seasons prior to Kubiak’s return to Denver. In 2013 and 2014, Denver tight ends caught 164 passes, and scored 29 touchdowns.

Both new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, realize the importance of using their tight ends in the passing attack.

In his four seasons as head coach of the San Diego Chargers, McCoy still made sure that aging Antonio Gates still remained a primary focus of the Chargers offense. Despite being 36 years old, Gates still caught more than 50 passes in each of his seasons with McCoy. Over those four seasons, Gates also scored 28 touchdowns.

This past season in Oakland, Musgrave may have had big name wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, but he still made sure to get tight ends Clive Walford (33 catches) and Mychal Rivera (18 catches) involved in the Raiders potent passing attack.

A large target underneath the defensive coverage can be a security blanket to the Broncos young and inexperienced quarterback situation.

In 2017, the Broncos will return some talent at the position.

AJ Derby was attained via an in-season trade with the New England Patriots, and showed a few glimpses of the match-up problems that he could pose for opposing defenses. Virgil Green may have more of a reputation for his blocking, but has made some big plays when he has been targeted in the passing game. Jeff Heuerman returned from missing his entire rookie season with a knee injury, and he is capable of stretching the field, with his speed and catching ability. The Broncos also like the potential of second year tight end Henry Krieger-Coble, who is a solid blocker, and may still develop as a pass catcher.

Denver will also have some money to spend in free agency, and there are a few tight ends in the upcoming NFL Draft that could garner some attention.

Under the tutelage of McCoy and Musgrave, the tight end position is going to return to the Denver offense.

It has been sorely missed.