Measurables: 6-foot-3, 240 pounds.
2014 stats: three receptions, 59 yards, two touchdowns.
James Casey is part of the Gary Kubiak football family. Selected by the Houston Texans in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Casey spent four years with Kubiak, before taking a lucrative free agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013.
After being drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2003, Casey eventually retired from Major League Baseball to go back to college and pursue a career in football. At Rice University, he proved his versatility and displayed great athleticism as both a running back and tight end—primarily the latter. He actually played seven positions in college. He declared for the NFL Draft following his sophomore year.
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Casey’s “breakout” year came in 2012 with the Texans, which saw him set career-high numbers across the board. I put breakout in quotes because although it represented the best season of his career, it was rather modest production, with 34 receptions for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
But it was enough to net him a three-year, $14.6M deal with the Eagles, of which he played out just two, before they released him this past spring. As an unrestricted street free agent, Casey’s services were in high demand, as he visited with seven teams, before finally signing a one-year deal with the Broncos, reuniting him with the coach who drafted him.
Casey brings great value to a Broncos team in transition to Kubiak’s brand of offense, where multiple tight ends are used regularly and the fullback is involved as more than a blocker. Moving forward, Casey projects as the team’s starting fullback and a backup tight end.
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In Kubiak’s zone scheme, we could see quarterback Peyton Manning lead the offense to new heights. In a different era, we saw how an aging John Elway was able to perform in Kubiak’s system and the NFL’s all-time leader in almost every major passing statistic, Peyton Manning, could very well open up the offense even more and tap into facets of it we heretofore haven’t seen.
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Casey could be a major benefactor of that. Now in his eighth year, Casey has learned how to hone his skills as a blocker, which is what the Broncos truly need right now from their starting fullback. The fact that he is so athletic and can be used in the passing game, is simply icing on the cake.
Casey will be competing with UDFA Joe Don Duncan for a position on the roster, but unless Duncan blows the doors down and markedly out-produces Casey in training camp, Casey’s spot on the final roster is secure.
The fact that he's a willing and accomplished contributor on special teams also adds to Casey's value and place with the team. He's a lunch-pail guy, willing to do whatever the team asks of him.