The Denver Broncos were officially awarded defensive lineman Joel Heath off of waivers from the Houston Texans following Super Bowl LIV.
The Denver Broncos were officially awarded defensive lineman Joel Heath from the Houston Texans off of waivers the day after Super Bowl LIV, per the NFL’s transaction wire.
Heath, an undrafted free agent of the Texans back in 2016, has been on and off the Texans’ roster quite a bit over the course of the last four years. He developed into a starter for the team as a rookie, if only on a part-time basis, starting 15 of a possible 25 games over his first two seasons in the league.
Checking in at 6-foot-6, 303 pounds, Heath is an ideal fit for a defensive end role in a 3-4 defensive alignment, which is obviously what the Broncos run under Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell.
The former Michigan State Spartan obviously has some NFL experience, but not enough that he’s going to hit unrestricted free agency in a few weeks.
Both Spotrac.com and OvertheCap.com — the two leading sources right now for NFL contract information — have Heath as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. That would mean the Broncos claimed him off of waivers for no reason at all, so what gives here?
The Broncos may know something we — or at least Spotrac and Over The Cap — don’t. The Broncos claimed Heath, who has two ‘accrued’ seasons of NFL experience, but that is it. The NFL recognizes six games as accrued service, and Heath played just five games in 2018 and two games in 2019.
The NFL handbook states that players with four or more accrued seasons become unrestricted free agents. We know that six games constitutes an accrued season, so it doesn’t appear Heath has met that requirement, despite having been in the league now since 2016.
Based on the fact that the NFL requires unrestricted free agents to have four years of accrued service along with the fact that the Broncos placed a December 31 waiver claim on this guy, it would be shocking to me if Denver didn’t have restricted free agent rights on Heath.
Otherwise, what’s the point of claiming him? To try to recruit him before he hits the market?
I don’t think that’s the case, but who knows?
The Broncos must think — or know — that Heath is going to be a restricted free agent, which means they can tender him at a first right of refusal to other teams.
This also leads me to believe the Broncos think at least somewhat highly of Heath. I can’t remember since I’ve been covering the Broncos when the team last made a move like this — claiming a guy off of waivers and having to wait until after the Super Bowl to get him onto the roster.
Now that Heath is on Denver’s roster, I would expect the Broncos to offer him a restricted free agent tender with the first right of refusal, and see what he’s got in camp in 2020.