March 10, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos went shopping in the bargain aisle this time.

Instead of breaking the bank to keep Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas in Denver, the Broncos re-signed Virgil Green for $7.5 million over three years and veteran Owen Daniels for three years and $12 million.

Thomas is the only tight end in NFL history to catch a dozen touchdown passes in consecutive seasons and Green has just one TD catch in his four-year career.

Yet, in new coach Gary Kubiak's system, tight ends have to be good blockers in the run game, and that's Green's forte and Thomas' shortfall.

Daniels, a two-time Pro Bowler, has played all nine of his seasons for Kubiak, whom he followed from Houston to Baltimore last year. He caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four TDs with the Ravens.

''He's been with Gary since he came into the league, so it's a good match there,'' general manager John Elway said.

Daniels is scheduled to fly to Denver on Wednesday to sign his deal. Green put his signature to his new contract when free agency opened Tuesday.

''We're really thrilled that Virgil's going to be back.'' Elway said. ''Virgil's been a big part of what we do and he's been one of those guys that has not necessarily been out in front of the scenes but behind the scenes. He's a tremendous worker, he's blocked, he's caught, he's been a tremendous worker on special teams.''

Elway said he forecasts bigger things for Green in Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme, and not just in the ground game.

''We're really excited with what we're going to do offensively now. We really think that Virgil's going to flourish because of his strengths as a blocker but also be more involved in the passing game,'' Elway said. ''So, we think it's a great fit for Virgil.''

Green, a seventh-round pick out of Nevada in 2011, is the first of Elway's draft picks to re-sign with the Broncos.

''It is a true honor, you know they understand how hard I work,'' Green said. ''That was always the goal for me, to always let people know that at the end of the day, regardless of what's happening, Virgil Green is going to work hard in the practice, in the film room, in the weight room, on game days and that's just really my motto, to work hard all day every day.''

Green drew interest from both the Chicago Bears - where John Fox landed after his ouster from Denver following the Broncos' early exit from the playoffs - and the San Diego Chargers, led by Mike McCoy, the Broncos' former offensive coordinator.

He's familiar with those coaches and those systems but wanted to stay put even though he has to learn a new offense in Denver.

''Me and my wife have established ourselves here and Kubiak, he seems like a good dude,'' Green said.

He said he was eager to team up with Daniels, whom he's admired for a long time.

''It's funny, about two years ago I went to the tight ends coach, Clancy Barone, and I told him from what I hear, this Owen Daniels guy knows how to get open. And I asked my coach to put together a clip of all the Owen Daniels route-running and everything,'' Green said. ''So, I've studied him. I feel like I can pick his brain, learn some things and better myself as a tight end.''

Linebacker Steven Johnson, who signed a one-year, $785,000 deal Tuesday, said fans shouldn't fret over losing Thomas.

''Julius is a top-five tight end in the whole league. We're going to miss him,'' Johnson said. ''But we've got to roll with who we've got and we plan on rolling to the Super Bowl with who we've got.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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