In a move that slipped quietly under the NFL radar, the Denver Broncos may have found their replacement for Julius Thomas in Vernon Davis.
Thomas, who was one of the NFL’s best pass-catching tight ends in Denver, bolted the Mile High City for the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2014-15 season to the tune of five years and $46 million.
While some dismissed the notion that Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos would be able to replace such an athletic pass-catching tight end in Thomas with Gary Kubiak favorite, Owen Daniels prove to be less than accurate.
The former sixth overall pick out of Maryland in the 2006 NFL Draft was acquired via trade from the San Francisco 49ers for a pair sixth-round picks in 2016 and 2017, was once one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL after having a breakout year in posting career highs in catches (78), targets (129), yards (965) and touchdowns (13) in 2009.
While Davis would equal his mark of touchdown catches of 13 in 2013, Davis’ numbers would fluctuate downwards after the 2010 season in which he posted 914 yards receiving and tie his career-best mark in yards per catch of 16.3 in 2010 and 2013.
Since the 2014 season, Davis has been a shell of his two-time former Pro Bowl self in catching 44 passes for 439 yards. Part of the reason for Davis’ decline in production could be tied to the regression of Colin Kaepernick and the departure of Jim Harbaugh for his alma mater at Michigan.
In Denver, Davis will be in much more tight-end friendly West Coast offense with the likes of Peyton Manning under center and playmakers such as DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Saunders spreading the field, thus leaving him free to roam in the middle.
If the Broncos have any hopes of returning to the Super Bowl and seeing Manning ride of into the metaphorical sunset a winner, it would be wise for them to integrate Davis as a focus on offense down the stretch sooner than later.