All signs pointed to Tuesday's decision. A spectator during offseason workouts at a deep position, tight end Joel Dreessen was released after failing his physical.
Dreessen's desire was to complete the final year of his contract with the Broncos. However, an injured left knee sabotaged his chances, along with the emergence of Julius Thomas and a strong field of backups. Dreessen expects to sit out this season, aiming to return in 2015 as a long snapper, a role he filled for the Houston Texans in 2009.
"I'm going to keep training. I've always enjoyed working out. See if I can't get my body to a point where it will cooperate a little bit more," Dreessen said. "If my body comes around, I would love maybe in 2015 to have an opportunity to be a long snapper and a backup tight end. I would love to do that."
The Broncos talked with Dreessen about restructuring his contract before agreeing to part ways. Dreessen was due $2.5 million this season and remains entitled to an injury-protection benefit of $1.05 million.
"Joel was part of the transition when we came in and when he came from Houston. ... He was a great part of helping us change the culture and getting this thing turned around," general manager John Elway said. "Unfortunately, he just had a knee that he couldn't recover from. We are going to miss Joel. He was a big part of what we've done over the last three years."
Dreessen understood the Broncos' decision because the team plans to place multiple players on the PUP list and needs healthy players for practice.
Said Dreessen: "The Broncos have been so good to me. I cannot praise 'Greek' (head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos) and his guys enough for how good they've been to me. We've explored every single possible option to get me healthy. I know a lot of times ballclubs when they have veteran guys with nagging issues, they'll try to wash their hands of him. But we explored every possible option, but it's probably going to be tough for me to play in 2014."
The left knee acted up on the first day of OTAs in 2013. Dreessen underwent two surgeries, but nothing helped.
"I just was not the same guy last year," he said. "There was a lot of pain, a lot of frustration."
Behind Thomas, a Pro Bowler last season who has received a long-term contract proposal from the team, the Broncos employ Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green.
Dreessen, one of only 12 players to start a high school (Fort Morgan), college (CSU) and NFL game in Colorado, started 15 games in 2012, posting a career-best 41 receptions for 356 yards and five touchdowns.
Dreessen, a nine-year veteran, was drafted by the Jets in 2005. He spent five seasons with the Texans before signing with the Broncos as an unrestricted free agent on March 29, 2012. The former two-time All-Mountain West performer received a three-year, $8.5 million deal from the Broncos, his favorite team growing up.
Troy Renck: email@example.com or twitter.com/trenck
Mike Klis contributed to this report.