Broncos' offseason has grown into fairly significant makeover


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When the Denver Broncos re-signed tight end Virgil Green and signed free agent tight end Owen Daniels, the two moves effectively squeezed out Jacob Tamme.

And Thursday, Tamme became the sixth player who has started at least one game for the Broncos over the last two seasons to leave in free agency since March 10. Tamme signed a two-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons and took to Twitter to thank Broncos fans, as well as his former teammates and coaches, early Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, defensive tackle Mitch Unrein signed a two-year, $1.9 million deal. Toss the departures of the last eight days in with the change in coaching staffs immediately following the season and suddenly you have a rather significant makeover underway for a team that won 12 games this past season as well as it fourth consecutive AFC West title.

While the Broncos has said they would consider bringing Tamme back, the eighth year tight end’s departure is not a surprise given the Broncos had largely made clear, in both word and deed, that most of their free agents would find better offers elsewhere. And that has proved to be the case.

The Broncos re-signed cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in December, a player who would have commanded the biggest contract of any of their impending free agents had he reached the open market, and re-signed tight end Virgil Green in the opening days of free agency last week. By contrast, tight end Julius Thomas (Jacksonville), guard Orlando Franklin (San Diego), safety Rahim Moore (Houston), defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (Washington), Unrein (San Diego) and Tamme have now signed elsewhere.

Unrein, who has a touchdown catch on a pass from Peyton Manning on his career resume, had been with the Broncos since he was signed to the team’s practice squad during the 2010 season. He played in 54 games for the Broncos, starting three.

Last season, with the Broncos spending so much time in their nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) packages, Unrein’s playing time was reduced and he was a game-day inactive eight times in the regular season as well as the Broncos’ playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Tamme, who had played in the Colts’ offense for three seasons with Manning at quarterback, including a 67-catch season in 2010, was signed in 2012, shortly after Manning had signed with the Broncos.

Tamme caught 52 passes in 2012, starting eight games and playing in all 16. However, Tamme's playing time has shrunk as the Broncos' three-wide receiver set became their base formation and as Julius Thomas emerged from two seasons largely lost to an ankle injury.

Tamme started one game in 2013 and made no starts in 2014. His 14 receptions this past season were also his lowest total since he had three catches in 2009 with the Colts.

Down the stretch this past season, Tamme -- slowed by a rib injury -- played nine, zero, seven and two snaps on offense in each of the last four regular-season games. The Broncos cut his base salary this past season from $3 million to $1.25 million and added $1.3 million in incentives.