Broncos bolsters TEs while Sharpe ponders

The Denver Broncos signed the potential replacement for Shannon Sharpe on Wednesday, reaching terms with unrestricted free agent tight end Jed Weaver on a three-year contract, ESPN.com has learned.

A five-year veteran, Weaver played the 2003 season with the San Francisco 49ers, and is coming off the best year of his career. Weaver started all 16 games for San Francisco and had 35 catches for 437 yards and one touchdown.

Weaver, 27, signed a three-year contract worth $3.085 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus. He will earn base salaries of $535,000 (2004), $950,000 (2005) and $1 million. There are workout bonuses of $50,000 each for the final two seasons.

In addition, Weaver could earn up to $500,000 in incentives and bonuses.

There remains some uncertainty about whether Sharpe, the most prolific tight end in NFL history, will return in 2004 for a 15th season. He has publicly suggested he will apprise coach Mike Shanahan and team officials of his plans well in advance of the draft. Most observers feel he will play one more season.

If he doesn't however, the Broncos have gained a capable replacement, a player who was never used much as a receiver before last season but one who emerged as a solid pass-catcher in the San Francisco offensive design. Prior to 2003, Weaver had never posted more than 18 catches in a campaign.

The former University of Oregon standout began his career with Philadelphia in 1999 and then was claimed on waivers by Miami the following season. He spent three years with the Dolphins before signing with the 49ers as a free agent last spring.

Weaver has started in 37 of his 80 regular-season appearances and has 80 receptions for 997 yards and six touchdowns.