Broncos brick, mortar, and scrap: Tight end overview

In this edition of Brick, Mortar and Scrap, we take a look at the tight end position to see who can help the Broncos in 2020 and beyond.

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 1: Linebacker Kyzir White #44 of the Los Angeles Chargers defends a pass in the end zone intended for tight end Noah Fant #87 of the Denver Broncos during the first quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on December 1, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Tight end is funny position. Depending on the team, it can be considered anything from an all-star position to just an extension of the offensive line.

For the Broncos, I think this position could be known more for the former, thanks to the first-round selection of Noah Fant in 2019. After that, there's not a ton of pizzazz behind him in the group.

Today, we take a look at the entire tight end position group and see who can add something to the team in 2020.

Let's get started.

Noah Fant

Fant's analysis is going to be short and sweet. That's because his status for 2020 is the easiest to put down.

The first round pick in 2019 had himself a fine rookie year, finishing with 40 catches for 562 yards and 3 TD's. Considering the carousel of QB's aiming the ball his way, that's not too shabby of a stat line.

If there was ever going to be a brick in this group, it would be him. Aside from the sterling draft status, Fant showed enough promise in his rookie year for Broncos Country to believe that he'll be leading this group for many years to come.

2020 Status: Brick

Jeff Heuerman

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HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 8: Jeff Heuerman #82 of the Denver Broncos runs a pass in for a touchdown during the first half of a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 8, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Despite going to his sixth year as a Bronco, Heuerman's 2020 status on the roster could be in a state of flux. Honestly, it comes down to how you view him and how you think he fits into the new offense run by Pat Shurmur.

Since coming to Denver in 2015, Heuerman has shown great ability as a blocker and the occasional clutch play in the passing game.  While it's nice to have a good blocking TE, it may be hard to warrant keeping Heuerman, for a variety of reasons.

  1. His projected salary for the 2020 season is just under $4.4 million (with only 500,000 in dead cap). That's a good chunk of change for a guy who's averaged a dozen catches and 1 TD per season in his tenure as a Bronco.
  2. Pat Shurmur's offense historically likes to run 3 WR sets. If that pattern continues in Denver, that means far less of the TE's on the field. With Fant's obvious status as the #1 TE, it may be hard for Heuerman get the sufficient amount of snaps to warrant a roster spot.
  3. Finally, the emergence of young depth in Andrew Beck and Troy Fumagalli may make Heuerman more vulnerable in terms of cuts.

At this point, it's hard to say what will happen to Heuerman. It's too early in the offseason to say how he'll be utilized in this offense.

If I had to guess right now, I think he may do enough to stick for another year. With that said, I wouldn't be surprised if he's a cap casualty come this summer.

2020 Status: Mortar

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Troy Fumagalli

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DENVER, CO - AUGUST 29: Tight end Troy Fumagalli #84 of the Denver Broncos is tackled after a catch by safety Deionte Thompson #35 and defensive back Nate Brooks #41 of the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter of a preseason game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Troy Fumagalli may be the quietest player to make the roster in 2020. Despite missing his rookie year to injury and only recording 6 catches in 2019, I believe that Fumagalli's roster spot may be secure for one simple reason. He can do a lot of the things Heuerman can do, for a fraction of the cost.

Fumagalli's never going to wow anyone with his raw athleticism or skill, but I think his ability to a blocker, HB, ST player and TE could be too valuable as a depth piece for the Broncos to move away from.

He has two years left on his rookie deal. While he doesn't have the production and experience that Heuerman has, I think he's capable of doing every bit as much and more while helping keep the position cheap.

I'm not saying that his status should be set in stone.  His situation may just be more circumstantial than ability based. If he can continue to help out on ST along with providing trusted depth on offense, I think he's an easy guy to keep on the 53 for 2020.

2020 Status: Mortar

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Andrew Beck

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 29: Andrew Beck #83 and Phillip Lindsay #30 of the Denver Broncos celebrate after a second quarter Beck touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High on December 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Sometimes, all a guy needs is the right situation to flourish as a player. For Andrew Beck, being claimed off waivers by the Broncos may have been the spark plug he needed to get his career kick started.

Despite getting the most guaranteed money amongst the UDFA signings by the Patriots, the team decided to part ways with the rookie TE at the end of training camp.  He was mainly used as a Fullback in his time up in New England and little did Beck know, that position would end up being his predominant spot with the Broncos in 2019.

While he was active for all 16 games, it only after Andy Janovich's injury vs Minnesota that gave Beck his best playing opportunity. In Jano's absence, Beck filled in at FB and by all accounts, did a nice job.

Like Fumagalli, Beck is cheap depth that could provide a valuable role on this roster. With his position versatility, I could see him being used as a nice mismatch for this offense. That doesn't necessarily mean he's going to have a break out season, as a catcher.

All it means is that he could be used as a player to confuse opposing defenses and set up the other playmakers with better match ups.

Regardless, I think his cheap contract and position versatility give him a great shot to stick around for 2020 and beyond.

2020 Status: Brick

Next: 5 FA moves for the Broncos to keep pace with KC

Conclusion: The Broncos have found their long term plan at the position in Noah Fant. Beyond that, I think you have yourself a great Swiss army knife in Andrew Beck. Every other guy in this position group, though, could be vulnerable and will have to bring their A games come training came.