ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Jeff Heuerman had few doubts about where he would end up during the 2019 free-agency cycle.
The fifth-year tight end only briefly tested the market before agreeing to a new two-year deal with the Broncos — and he said Tuesday he had clarity throughout the process.
"I knew it was the right decision all along," Heuerman said Tuesday after signing his contract. "Friday, when I kind of finalized it, was when we went through everything and really made the decision. This is where I wanted to be. This is where my NFL career started. As a player, you want to finish where you start. That is my ultimate goal."
The Ohio State product certainly has unfinished business with the Broncos, who have been looking for a consistent threat at the tight-end position over the last several seasons. President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said as much in late February at the NFL Combine.
"We've been trying to address that every year," Elway said. "That's a tough position now, especially when you're talking about an in-line guy that is a blocker but can also be a good pass receiver. We don't have a lot of in-line guys coming out of college like we used to because of what they're doing in college ball opening things up and there's more receivers coming out of college. It's much more difficult finding the in-line tight ends than it's ever been."
Heuerman, a former third-round pick, looked like the answer for parts of 2018. He pieced together the best season of his career as he recorded 31 receptions, 281 yards and two touchdowns. But he also suffered a season-ending rib injury that sidelined him for the final five games of the season.
"It was very frustrating," Heuerman said. "It was one of those things where I took a shot, kind of got the wind knocked out of me — it was one of those things where I caught my wind, got back to the sideline and just kind of told myself 'you're good, you're good.' I went back out there for a couple more plays and I was feeling it at that point. It was frustrating because it was one of those things where I didn't feel like I should've been done for the year. But when you have a punctured lung and that pneumothorax type thing, it's hard to get cleared in four to five weeks. I think when I got hurt there were five or six weeks left in the season. It was kind of on that fringe.
"If we would have made the playoffs at that point, I would've been cleared, healthy and good to go for that run. It was frustrating because of the situation we were in as a team. Having to be put down for the rest of the year was tough."
Heuerman was already no stranger to injuries. He tore his ACL in rookie minicamp in 2015 and missed the entire season, and he battled injuries in both 2016 and 2017, as well.
But he said Tuesday he's ready to prove the best of his career is yet to come.
"Absolutely," he said. "Every year you have to come — that is the thing about this business — you have to show what you can do every year. I'm looking forward to working with some of the new guys, [QB] Joe [Flacco] and a new offensive coordinator [Rich Scangarello]. I'm excited. It's going to be fun."
Heuerman said he's watched tape of Scangarello's 49ers offense that featured tight end George Kittle and of Flacco's Baltimore unit that often relied upon the tight end.
And he's also turned to watching his own film from the last several seasons. That included a Week 9 game against Houston that was the best of Heuerman's career. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound player caught 10 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown that gave Denver a late lead.
"Yeah, trust me, I do a lot of self-study," Heuerman said. "I look at not just that game. I look at all kinds of situations I've been in my career and try to build off of all of it."
With a new two-year contact, Heuerman will have the chance to do exactly that.