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Broncos sign WR Aaron Burbridge to future contract

In a corresponding move after releasing wide receiver Andre Holmes, the Denver Broncos on Thursday signed WR Aaron Burbridge to a reserve/future contract, the team announced.

Future contracts — the Broncos inked offensive lineman Don Barclay earlier this week — are added to the 90-man offseason roster on March 13, the start of the new league year.

Burbridge, 25, is entering his fourth NFL season. He was a sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 and appeared in all 16 games (starting three) during his rookie season, recording seven receptions for 88 yards.

He spent the 2017 campaign on injured reserve. Burbridge returned to San Francisco last year, but never appeared in a regular season contest. He served as a member of their practice squad for a week in October before being released on Nov. 1.

As recently as last August, however, coach Kyle Shanahan threw support behind Burbridge, suggesting his development is ticking upward.

“With Burb, it started with special teams,” he said, via Niners Nation. “When I came here and interviewed a number of special teams coaches and everyone spoke so highly of him. He was very well respected in the special teams world around the league and when you do that, there’s usually a place for you in this league. He was a little slower of a starter for us at receiver. It took him some time last year. I don’t know how ready he was to help us with special teams last year, but he had a great chance to make this team. I mean, I don’t know much he had a chance to help us on offense last year, but he had a great chance last year to make it on special teams. He ended up getting hurt, we had to IR him. The year off, he’s always been good at special teams, but he’s really come around as a receiver. He’s in this mix at receiver, not just special teams and he’s been really good in camp so far.”

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A Michigan State product, Burbridge caught 165 passes for 2,174 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Spartans from 2012-15. He earned Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors in 2015, when he exploded for 1,258 yards and seven TDs on 85 receptions.

Burbridge (6-0, 206) is an ideal slot wideout who displays short-area burst and plus athleticism, though his long-stride explosion and questionable hands leave much to be desired. His NFL.com scouting report likened Burbridge to Jason Avant.

Outside receiver with good height and weight but lacking the deep speed to beat NFL cornerbacks down the field. Burbridge has enough short-area quickness to be an effective target against zone coverage, but could have problems against tight, press­ man. A move inside as a big slot receiver could be in his best interest.

Familiar with new Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, formerly the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach, Burbridge joins a youth moment at the position, with Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton emerging as the pass-catchers of the future and veteran Emmanuel Sanders a possible cap casualty following his devastating Achilles’ injury. Sanders likely won’t heal in time for Week 1 — if he’s even still on Denver’s roster.

The Broncos also had Tim Patrick and River Cracraft flash during an otherwise bleak 2018 campaign, which saw fan favorite Demaryius Thomas depart via trade and the club sputter to a 6-10 record.

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