The Broncos matched an offer sheet to restricted free agent tight end Jeb Putzier a day before the deadline, keeping him from going to the New York Jets.
The Jets signed Putzier to a five-year offer sheet with the Jets worth $12.5 million with a $2.5 million signing bonus. New York would have had to give up a sixth-round pick as compensation had the Broncos not matched the offer sheet but the Broncos committed to Putzier as their tight end of the future.
"Obviously, the Jets' interest in Jeb shows you what kind of a player some teams outside of Denver think he is, and the contractual commitment made indicates not only the Jets' thoughts of his future, but ours as well," Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said.
What Putzier gives the Broncos is another playmaker in the passing game. He is a favorite of Jake Plummer's and last season he showed the potential the Broncos were excited about for his first two years.
Putzier can get downfield like a receiver, much like Shannon Sharpe. Putzier was a receiver in college at Boise State.
The Broncos had trouble inside the red zone last year and Putzier could help that. He also can stretch the field, shown by his 15.9-yard per catch average last season. That ranked first among AFC tight ends and just below league leader Alge Crumpler of Atlanta.
"Jeb is an excellent talent and will be a significant factor in our offense in 2005," Sundquist said.
Putzier's weakness is as a blocker, which is a reason he wasn't on the field on most running downs last season. But the Broncos said he has improved in that area and are hopeful he becomes like Sharpe in that regard -- not a dominating blocker but effective with his positioning to opening holes in the running game.
--The Broncos have had discussions with punter Jason Baker's agent to bring him back next season. Baker was signed in midseason last year when Micah Knorr was released. Baker struggled early in his time with Denver, especially kicking off, but he is a combination kickoff specialist/punter, which Denver covets.
Jason Elam has not kicked off in years for Denver, and the Broncos don't want to use a roster spot on a kickoff specialist who performs no other role.
--The Broncos re-signed long snapper Mike Leach, who Denver also likes as a tight end. Leach has been solid as a long snapper and last year he was good enough on offense during training camp that the Broncos decided to release Bryon Chamberlain and Jed Weaver because Leach provided extra depth behind Dwayne Carswell, Jeb Putzier and Patrick Hape.
--Defensive tackle Luther Elliss spent most of last season injured, but he was still in the Broncos plans for 2005.
Elliss, a free agent, hasn't been healthy in many years but the Broncos need big bodies at tackle, and Elliss was playing well last year before he suffered a calf injury that knocked him out for some time. A back injury ended Elliss' season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not only happy for Jeb, but also for the organization in that we were able to retain him on the team." -- Broncos general manager on the team retaining restricted free agent tight end Jeb Putzier.
1. Defensive line. Even before the team decided to trade Trevor Pryce, defensive line was a priority. They need players who can beat offensive linemen in a one-on-one situation and get to the quarterback.
2. Offensive line: The tackle spots are set with Matt Lepsis on the left side and George Foster on the right side, and free agent guard Ben Hamilton re-signed with the team. But the team needs to find a couple of guards. The starting right guard spot is open for competition and Hamilton will eventually move over to center when Tom Nalen retires.
3. Defensive back. The Broncos could lose either Kelly Herndon or Lenny Walls, both restricted free agents, which would leave their cornerback depth thin. That has been a problem in playoff losses each of the past two years at Indianapolis.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: P Jason Baker; OG Cooper Carlisle; DE Marco Coleman; DT Luther Elliss; TE Patrick Hape; RB Garrison Hearst; DT Ellis Johnson.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Sam Brandon; DT Dorsett Davis; CB Kelly Herndon; DE Anton Palepoi; DT Monsanto Pope; CB Lenny Walls.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: S Chris Young.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED; OG Ben Hamilton; TE/LS Mike Leach; TE Jeb Putzier.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: LB Ian Gold; DT Gerard Warren.
PLAYERS LOST: DE Reggie Hayward; S Kenoy Kennedy; CB Lewis Sanders.
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