The Denver Broncos released starting running back Willis McGahee on Thursday after two seasons with the team.
McGahee was a casualty of Denver’s backfield overload that included second-year player Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball, who Denver drafted in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft.
“I knew it was going to happen. It is what it is. They are going younger,” McGahee told ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
After the release of McGahee, the Broncos signed Ball to a four-year contract.
McGahee was initially set to split caries with Knowshon Moreno in Denver when he signed a four-year deal worth $9.5 million in 2011. After an injury to Moreno in Week 1 of the 2011 season, McGahee assumed the primary running back role and gained 1,199 yards and scored four touchdowns in his first season with the Broncos.
After Peyton Manning’s arrival in Denver before the start of the 2012 season, big things were expected of both the Broncos and McGahee. However, the 11-year pro suffered a season-ending right MCL tear and compression fracture in his right knee in Week 11 against the San Diego Chargers. He ended up only rushing for 731 yards.
McGahee missed all 10 of the Broncos “voluntary” OTA practices in the past month but showed up for mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. McGahee said he missed the OTA practices due to family reasons but did insist that his missing those practices did not put him at a disadvantage to the young running backs learning a new offense. The Broncos are working under first-year offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who replaced Mike McCoy, now the head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
McGahee was scheduled to make $2.5 million this season.
“In fairness to him, I think [for] the things he’s done for us, this gives him a better opportunity to hook on somewhere,” Broncos coach John Fox said after Thursday’s minicamp. “It gives us a better opportunity to give some of these young guys more reps. It’s just a conscious decision for us to get younger.”
In addition to Ball and Hillman, Denver also has Moreno and Jacob Hester on the roster at the running back position. That left McGahee has the odd man out. With the youth movement beginning in the Broncos backfield, McGahee has no hard feelings to the remaining backs in Denver.
“I don’t have anything against the people behind me. Now they have the opportunity. I wish them nothing but the best of luck. They’re all good kids,” said McGahee.
What about the next team McGahee would like to play for?
“There are a lot of places I wouldn’t mind playing. You got Miami, Dallas, Green Bay, San Diego, Oakland. That’s not necessarily my order of preference, though. All of those team I mention I would go to with no problems.”