Broncos training camp: Jake Butt at major crossroads

Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt is at a crossroads in 2020.

The Denver Broncos took a shot on an injured Jake Butt in the 2017 NFL Draft, and although at the time it felt like a very worthwhile risk and selection, but three years removed from the selection, it’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow.

Although the Broncos — and every other team — had a number of selections long before that, Butt was selected one pick before the San Francisco 49ers took Iowa Hawkeyes tight end George Kittle, who has since become the best tight end in the entire NFL.

The Broncos appear to be on the right track now with Noah Fant and the host of other tight ends on the roster, but they’d probably love to have that one back.

Still, the team has remained invested in Jake Butt despite just a brief regular-season appearance after a very strong offseason in 2018.

Butt was able to stay mostly healthy the offseason after recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the final game of his collegiate career.

At the beginning of the 2018 season, Butt was a starter for Denver with 13 targets and eight receptions in the first three games before going down with an injury in week three.

Had he kept that pace up, Butt was on track for 70 targets and over 40 catches for the 2018 season, but it never came to pass.

After suffering yet another injury in 2018, Butt returned to the practice field in 2019, but the Broncos took things very cautiously. He ended up appearing in a preseason game against the Rams last year, only to experience discomfort in his knee yet again and sit out the 2019 campaign.

Teams are not always overly patient with these kinds of situations, especially with guys who have done virtually nothing on an NFL field, but the Broncos have been exceptionally patient with Jake Butt.

You’ll see in this photo gallery posted by the team, he’s out on the field with no knee brace whatsoever to open 2020 training camp.

It’s easy to forget how good Butt was in college at Michigan — an All-American with some first-round NFL Draft hype — but it’s also easy to forget how strong Butt looked in the 2018 offseason when he finally made his initial return from that first ACL injury that caused him to miss his rookie season.

Now, Butt is entering his fourth year in the NFL, and he still has practice squad eligibility with the lack of regular season action under his belt. He’s got plenty of motivation, to be certain, and an abnormal amount of support from the Broncos’ front office and coaching staff.

Butt has always been regarded as a good teammate, good guy, and great player to have in the film room regardless of his Sunday availability, but you have to think there’s a reason the Broncos are so confident in him finally putting things together.

It’s really tough as a fan because you can’t help but wonder if the next play or the next hit is going to keep Butt sidelined. You just hate to see or hear about injuries happening and especially if they are repeatedly happening to a player.

More than just a ‘last chance’ this offseason seems like a great time for Butt to prove why the Broncos have been so faithful to him for four years. We’ve seen them cut ties with higher draft picks in shorter order, and we’ve seen them be much less forgiving when it comes to injuries with a lot of other players.

That speaks volumes about who Butt is and what his potential is.

How incredible would it be if he were able to develop into the team’s TE2 behind Noah Fant for this season?

Next: 5 players who will shine early at Broncos camp

Longshot or not, you can’t help but root for this guy to finally be able to stay healthy, make the team, and prove everyone who has believed in him over the last four years right.