Veteran proved his worth in 2004

Updated: March 23, 2005, 3:37 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Seven-year veteran tight end Stephen Alexander, who enjoyed a productive bounce-back season in 2004 after a spate of injuries, has reached a contract agreement with the Denver Broncos, ESPN.com has learned.

Alexander, 29, will sign a three-year, $4.2 million contract that includes bonuses of $1 million.

Last season, Alexander registered 41 catches for 377 yards and one touchdown with the Detroit Lions. It marked the first time since 2000 that Alexander appeared in all 16 games, and his 15 starts were the most since that season, as well.

As an unrestricted free agent, Alexander drew solid interest the past three weeks. There appeared to be a chance he might return to Detroit, but that ended when the Lions signed Marcus Pollard after Indianapolis released him.

Signing with the Broncos is a bit of a surprise because Denver recently retained tight end Jeb Putzier, matching the five-year, $12.5 million restricted free-agent offer sheet to which the New York Jets had signed the three-year veteran. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who uses plenty of double-tight formations, wanted another accomplished receiver at the spot.

With Alexander's addition, Denver might eventually consider dealing Putzier, in whom the Jets remain interested after a breakout year in 2004.

Denver will be Alexander's fourth franchise and the third team he has played with in three seasons. His inability to put down roots, though, is more a function of injuries than ability. During the five seasons in which he was healthy, Alexander averaged 39.8 receptions and three times posted 40-plus catches.

In 2001 with the Washington Redskins, Alexander played in only seven games because of leg injuries. While with the San Diego Chargers in '03, he missed all but three games and had no receptions. That's why last season in Detroit it was so important for Alexander to re-establish himself as a viable pass-catching threat in the middle of the field.

One of the quickest tight ends in the league when he arrived as a second-round draft pick in 1998, Alexander has lost some speed to injuries. He is still able to split the safeties deep on occasion and is probably a better intermediate-range receiver now than he was earlier in his career.

The former Oklahoma star has 208 career receptions for 2,189 yards and 11 touchdowns in 86 games and 70 starts. Of his 208 catches, 122 have been for first downs and 28 have resulted in gains of 20 yards or more, good numbers for the right end position.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.