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Rounding Up the Latest Offseason Buzz Surrounding Denver Broncos

Jon HeathContributor IJune 18, 2013

Rounding Up the Latest Offseason Buzz Surrounding Denver Broncos

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    Can you hear that?  Those are crickets.

    Welcome to the NFL offseason in June.

    We've reached a dead zone in the NFL offseason, as players have a six-week break leading up to training camp practices, which start in late July.  Between now and then, NFL fans have little to buzz about.

    But there are a few buzzworthy items surrounding the Denver Broncos this week.  Let's take a look.

McGahee's Release Likely Health Related

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    When the Denver Broncos released veteran running back Willis McGahee last week, the chief reasons given were (a) the team wanted to get younger at the position, and (b) they wanted to give McGahee enough time to catch on with another team before training camps start up.

    While both of those reasons are likely true, there may have been a third, key factor.

    McGahee is coming off knee surgery. While he has been cleared to practice, at age 31, his health remains a concern.  According to the Denver Post's Mike Klis, McGahee would have been entitled to a $500,000 injury protection benefit if he had been released before being cleared to practice.

    Additionally, the Gazette's Paul Klee reports that McGahee is not healthy.

    "I have it on good authority that's what the Broncos believe. It's why McGahee was afforded only limited carries in the mandatory minicamp. It's the No. 1 reason he's on the job market for a new gig," writes Klee.

    As IAOFM.com's Douglas Lee points out, the Broncos were likely concerned that McGahee might suffer a re-aggravation of the torn MCL and leg fracture he suffered last season.  

    This, of course, was only one of the contributing factors. But it was a contributing factor in Denver's decision, make no mistake about that.

David Bruton, Quentin Jammer Competing to Win Starting Gigs

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    According to another Denver Post report from Klis, safeties David Bruton and Quentin Jammer are "legitimate threats" to win the starting safety gigs away from Mike Adams and Rahim Moore this summer.

    According to Klis, Bruton, a special teams ace, has been the biggest surprise of the offseason, spending time with the first-team defense throughout minicamp.  Jammer, a veteran cornerback who has been moved to safety, also spent time with the first-team unit.

    It has been somewhat expected that Adams would lose his job this offseason, but after showing great strides in his second season, it is surprising to see Moore seemingly tossed to the side early on in Denver's secondary competition.  Perhaps the coaches want to give Moore competition to see how he responds, or perhaps they truly see Bruton and Jammer as the two best safeties.

    Time will tell in the this case.  Don't rule out Quinton Carter, who is still recovering from injury, as another candidate to fight for a starting gig this offseason.

Broncos Like Their Young Running Backs

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    This goes without saying, but Denver has a lot of confidence in its young running backs.

    The average age of Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman is 22.6 years old.  That's nearly 10 years younger than the 31-year-old McGahee, who was just released.

    The fact that the Broncos released McGahee shows that they are clearly confident in their young running backs, the versatile Jacob Hester among them.

    Denver's backfield will be one of the most intriguing positions to watch this summer.

John Fox Is "Confident" Ryan Clady Deal Will Get Done

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    Coach John Fox says he is not involved in the negotiating process with Ryan Clady, but he is confident that something will get done with the disgruntled left tackle.

    Per John Heath Sports Media:

    "That’s the business part; I’m not in that mix," Fox said when asked about Clady's contract negotiations after practice on Thursday.  "At the end of the day I know we want Ryan and Ryan wants to be here.  So I’m convinced that something good will happen."

    The fact that Fox is confident something good is going to happen without being directly involved in the process may mean he is hearing good things from those involved on the negotiating front, as pointed out by "TD30isMVP" on JHSM.

    The Broncos offered Clady a large contract extension last year but were unable to strike a deal.  This offseason, the team used its one-year, $9.8 million franchise tag on Clady, but he has refused to sign it.

    Something will eventually get done, and Fox is confident that it will be a "good."

Julius Thomas Expected to Earn More Playing Time

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    With starter Joel Dreessen recovering from a minor knee operation, Julius Thomas has been practicing alongside Jacob Tamme in two-TE looks in Denver's starting offense this offseason.

    Thomas, a former basketball player, is 6'5" and 246 pounds.  After two injury-plagued seasons following the 2011 NFL draft, in which he was selected in the fourth round, Thomas is ready to compete for playing time.

    It sounds like he is already off to a good start.

    “He is a great athlete. A big target,” quarterback Peyton Manning told DenverBroncos.com earlier this month. “If you can’t complete a ball to Julius, as a quarterback, something is wrong with you.”

    Thomas' size will help give him an edge.  Now he just has to prove that he can use his size effectively.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie May Be Headed for Big Year

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    There's a lot of buzz surrounding cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who signed with the team in March.

    Rodgers-Cromartie is listed as a 6'2", 182-pound freak athlete who is incredibly gifted as a defensive back.  Playing across from Champ Bailey in 2013, DRC will likely be targeted often in 2013.

    It sounds like he will not disappoint.

    Steven O'Reilly, the owner of SkinnyPost.com, is a professional golfer and friend of DRC.  On Tuesday, O'Reilly told me that "DRC will be the best corner on our team this year. Maybe equal to Champ Bailey but much faster."

    DRC started his career off hot with the Arizona Cardinals before two less-than-exciting seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.  But he's ready to return to pre-Philly form.

    "He's added weight this offseason [and is] up to 200 pounds, still runs in the 4.2 range, is tall and really hungry. There was a lot going on in Philly that a lot people don't know about. When the Cardinals were good, he went to the Pro Bowl. He knows it's time to get a ring, and this is an opportunity to get it," concluded O'Reilly.

    According to O'Reilly, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has dubbed DRC the most athletic player in the NFL, which is quite the compliment.  If he lives up to the hype, DRC will quickly become a fan favorite in Denver.

Von Miller Is Returning to Dove Valley Early to Train

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    The players can do practically whatever they want during the six-week stretch leading up to training camp.  As for third-year linebacker Von Miller, he is going to keep grinding.

    In an interview with MileHighReport.com's Kyle Montgomery, Miller said that he will return to the team's Dove Valley training facility early to train before camp starts up in late July:

    In years past I always go somewhere else and work out. Coach Richesson was just like, "Just work out here in Denver with me, and right before the season just get it going. The key is just never get out of shape." So now I'm going to take a short break, keep my condition up, keep my hydration up. Keep stepping on the gas now nutritionally and physically and get it going way before the season starts.

    In addition to Miller, rookie running back Montee Ball and defensive tackle Mitch Unrein will also be returning to Denver early to get additional training done.  That's the kind of commitment that builds champions.

    This is what makes Von Miller so great.

Might the Broncos Still Target John Abraham?

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    After the Denver Broncos released Elvis Dumervil and saw him land with the Baltimore Ravens, the team brought in veteran pass-rushers John Abraham and Dwight Freeney for visits.  Neither left Denver with a contract

    Freeney went on to sign with the San Diego Chargers, but Abraham remains unsigned.  The Broncos, in the meantime, went out and signed Shaun Phillips and then drafted Quanterus Smith in April.

    But if the price is right, Abraham may not be out of the picture yet.

    On Monday, USA Today's Nate Davis listed Abraham as the top remaining free agent and listed the Broncos as the best fit for him:

    He'd be a perfect situational pass rusher for a contender, especially one that just freed up cap space by dumping it's former starting running back ... especially if you're not sold on Shaun Phillips as the man to supplant Elvis Dumervil's transplanted production.

    Such a signing would make sense for the Broncos, but it is unknown if the team has any interest in the veteran pass-rusher.  Only time will tell.

Broncos Offensive Line Stacked with Questions

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    The Broncos' 2012 starting center, Dan Koppen, is currently an unsigned free agent.  Koppen's predecessor and likely successor, J.D. Walton, is still recovering from surgery.

    Meanwhile, Louis Vasquez signed with the team earlier this offseason, putting guard Chris Kuper's future in question, especially with Kuper also recovering from surgery.  And then there's Ryan Clady, who is in a contract dispute with the team and also recovering from surgery.

    That's three potential starters down with injuries. 

    So, when will they return? Hopefully by the time training camp rolls around.

    "I think that's kind of been the target date all along with Kuper, J.D. and Ryan," Coach Fox told the Denver Post. "We're anticipating at some point, if not at the beginning of camp, early in camp, we will get them back full speed."

    In the meantime, Denver's starting offensive linemen have been Chris Clark, Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, Vasquez and Orlando Franklin.  It will be interesting to see who wins the five starting gigs when Kuper, Walton and Clady return to full health.

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