Broncos get 6th round pick if they let Putzier go
The New York Jets on Friday afternoon became the first team to dip into the restricted free agent pool, signing Denver Broncos three-year veteran tight end Jeb Putzier to an offer sheet, ESPN.com has learned.
Denver will have seven days to either match the offer sheet, in essence accepting all of the principle terms of the deal, or pass on it and permit Putzier to move on to the Jets. If the Broncos decide not to match the offer sheet, they will receive a sixth-round choice in this year's draft from the Jets as compensation.
The Broncos retained a right of first refusal on Putzier, by making him the low-level qualifying offer, the equivalent of a one-year proposal for $656,000.
A sixth-round choice in the 2002 draft, Putzier enjoyed a breakout season in 2004, with 36 receptions for 572 yards and two touchdowns. His 15.9-yard average per catch was the best in the NFL for a tight end. Twenty-seven of his receptions produced first downs and 10 were for gains of 20 yards or more.
The former Boise State star missed his entire rookie campaign with an injury and then, in 2003, played in just four games, registering only four catches for 34 yards. Even in 2004, he started just five games, but logged significant playing time in all 16 contests, and was a key in two-tight end formations.
New York has not had a tight end post more than 40 receptions in a season since 1995, when Johnny Mitchell had 45 receptions. In the nine seasons since then, the Jets' top tight averaged only 24.2 receptions.
The Jets' starting tight end, Anthony Becht, is an unrestricted free agent and New York has made little effort to retain him.
Since free agency began in 1993, only 48 restricted free agents have switched teams, including just one in 2004.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. John Clayton contributed to this report.