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Mason's Mailbag: What's next at tight end?

Posted Jan 14, 2018

The Broncos need more production from the position, and Jake Butt could be counted on in a big way to provide it.

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.

What will the Broncos do in the offseason to help the tight end position?

-- Ben Fine

The biggest change that will help is getting Jake Butt into the mix after he missed the 2017 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Picking him with the first selection of the fifth round last year was a long-term play; the only reason he was available then was because of that injury, which he suffered in his final college game. With Butt, the Broncos got a first-round talent with a Round 5 pick, giving them a high ceiling and the potential for one of the best value picks of recent drafts. Butt was also one of the few tight ends of last year's deep draft class who had the capability to work in an in-line position (next to the tackle, in a three-point stance) and in space.

Beyond Butt, the Broncos hope that Jeff Heuerman, Austin Traylor and December addition Matt LaCosse can continue to build off the progress they showed late in the season. Veteran Virgil Green is a free agent, and his status is still to be determined.

It would come as no surprise if the Broncos added another young tight end to the group. This year's draft offers some more possibilities, including some that the team's coaching staff will be able to closely evaluate at the Senior Bowl. That group will be led by Wisconsin's Troy Fumagalli, South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert and Central Michigan's Tyler Conklin.

No matter who the Broncos add, the goal is simple: to get more production -- particularly in the red zone -- than the five touchdowns and 657 yards on 50 receptions than the team got from its tight ends in 2017.

I haven’t heard much about Chad Kelly as a legitimate option at quarterback. I actually think he may be the ticket. If so, the Broncos should move Bolles to the right side, and draft a solid left tackle like the kid from Notre Dame (Mike McGlinchey) or Texas (Connor Williams). If not, they should trade for Alex Smith and take Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick. They have a high second-rounder for either a linebacker or D- lineman (or possibly a guard). What do you think?

-- Ken Wikler

Kelly will be a part of the overall competition to create the overall composition of the depth chart, but you can't put all of your eggs in that basket at this point. Unless you have a proven commodity added as the clear-cut starting quarterback at some point around the start of the new league year in March.

As for the other possibilities, do not expect the Chiefs to trade Alex Smith within the division. (And, yes, I know Andy Reid traded Donovan McNabb within the NFC East eight years ago, dealing him from Philadelphia to Washington, but McNabb didn't have much left in the tank at this point, while Smith is coming off a season in which he posted the best passer rating of his career.)

And in regards to the rest of your suggestions ... well, you covered a lot of possibilities, and a broad spectrum of ideas is what January draft discussion is all about. There's plenty of time to whittle them down to something narrower by April.

Has Paxton Lynch proved that he can be the franchise quarterback? Because young quarterbacks like Jared Goff cleaned up from a 0-7 start to making the playoffs.

-- Ayman Mohamase

Lynch is still in the evaluation phase based on four starts. I don't think you can come to the conclusion after those four games that he is the franchise quarterback. The record doesn't really have an impact; that's a reflection of team performance. Also, Goff's seven starts in 2016 came in succession, while none of Lynch's four starts have come in back-to-back games.

Furthermore, his progress will also be weighed against the potential of other possibilities in free agency and, in particular, a deep class of quarterbacks in this year's draft. If the Broncos do look toward the draft -- particularly the first two days -- the question they will have to answer is whether a rookie they would add is a better prospect or greater potential than the young quarterbacks already on hand.

This is the type of decision-making process that goes on every year at every position; it's just magnified this year because of the focus on the quarterback position and the clear identification of fixing the issues there as the team's No. 1 roster priority.

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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