With Julius Thomas off the market, Denver must continue search for tight end

Reports surfaced last week that the Jacksonville Jaguars were shopping former Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas. Deemed a cap casualty, Jacksonville likely would have still parted ways with Thomas, if a trade had not surfaced. But before Bronco fans could dig out their #80 jerseys from the attic in hopes of a Denver reunion, Jacksonville sent Thomas to Miami for a late round pick.

With Thomas reunited with former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, the Broncos’ search for an effective tight end continues.

Since Thomas’ departure in 2015, Denver has had a hole at the tight end position that they have not been able to fill. Owen Daniels was serviceable during Denver’s 2015 Super Bowl run, but has since been released and has not played for in the NFL since.

Last season, the Broncos hoped that the duo of Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman would be an effective combination at TE for their young quarterbacks. Unfortunately, just the opposite occurred.

Last season, Denver’s leading receiver at tight end was Virgil Green, who caught 22 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown. Heuerman, who had missed his entire rookie season with a  torn ACL, continued to be plagued by injuries throughout the year. Mid-season acquisition A.J. Derby chipped in for 160 yards off of 22 receptions.

In search of a reliable starter at tight end, Denver could turn to free agency, where some intriguing options are available on the market. Expected to make a couple “splashy moves,” Elway could take a run at Martellus Bennett from AFC rival New England Patriots.

Another option would be to kick the tire on Miami tight end Jordan Cameron. Head coach Vance Joseph saw plenty of Cameron during his tenure at Miami. Cameron is talented, but needs to stay healthy to make an impact.

In terms of the NFL draft, the Broncos could choose to select a day one starter with their first round pick, such as Alabama’s O.J. Howard or Miami’s  David Njoku. Of course, this depends heavily on if either of these players are available when Denver is on the clock at 20.

With so much attention focused on the fixing the offensive line, the Broncos also needs more production from its tight ends. Both of Denver’s current quarterbacks would do well to have a security blanket to throw to should the offensive line take one more year to build. Likewise, a playmaker at tight end would sure make a transition smoother should Denver happen to acquire a high-profile quarterback.

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