ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have one of the longer lists of free agents in the league, and just under a week out from the formal opening of the NFL's festival of checks, it's a good time to take a one-a-day look at some of the impending Broncos' free agents.
Today: Jacob Tamme
Saturday: Will Montgomery
When the Broncos signed Peyton Manning as their quarterback in 2012 they had a roster that had finished the previous season in a read-option offense with Tim Tebow at quarterback. It was an offense that had led the league in rushing that season and was tied for the league lead in carries as well.
They were on the hunt for targets in the passing game, especially at tight end where they needed to make the transition from a run-first scheme to one that fit Manning. As a result, the Broncos signed tight end Joel Dreessen and Tamme in the same week.
Tamme had played in the Indianapolis Colts offense with Manning at quarterback for three seasons, including a 67-catch season in 2010. In his first year with the Broncos, it was no surprise when Tamme quickly acclimated to a Broncos' offense with Manning in it.
He caught 52 passes in '12, starting eight games and playing in all 16. However in the two seaons since Tamme has seen his playing time in the offense shrink as the Broncos went more and more to a three-wide receiver set as their base formation. He started one game in 2013 and made no starts this past season.
Tamme's 14 receptions this past season were also his lowest total since he had three catches in 2009. Even with Julius Thomas slowed with an ankle injury, Tamme, slowed by a rib injury of his own, played nine, zero, seven and two snaps on offense in each of the last four regular-season games.
He then played just seven snaps on offense in the playoff loss to the Colts. Tamme remained a valuable player with his contributions on special teams and he consistently prepared himself as if he would get more playing time than he did.
For the year he played 276 snaps on offense, or 24.5 percent, after he had taken a pay cut before the season began.
He is one of three tight ends who are set to be unrestricted free agents for the Broncos, to go with Thomas and Virgil Green. John Elway has said how much he would like to re-sign Green.
Thomas is expected to sign elsewhere since the Broncos don't figure to be the team that gives him the best offer. And the Broncos have had James Casey to their complex already for a free agent visit.
The Broncos need to sign multiple players at the position and coach Gary Kubiak has already said somebody is playing fullback at times as well, whether it is a traditional fullback or a tight end. Casey would seem to fit the sometimes-receiver, sometimes-blocker role Tamme has had at times over the last three years.
The Broncos coaches have always considered Tamme better in a receiving role than as a blocker, but he has been a willing blocker who has worked hard to try to improve that part of his game.
The Broncos will add players at the position and after the market opens, they'll try to bring Green back, they'll give Casey a long look and the team likes what the draft class has to offer as well at tight end. It all means they'll give Tamme a look as well, but the price tag will have to fit into the budget and the Broncos will have to believe they have enough depth at the position for Tamme to play a largely receiving role.