Willis McGahee

This Date In Transactions History: Broncos Release Willis McGahee

In the summer of 2011, the Ravens released Willis McGahee in an effort to save cap space. Days later, the Broncos scooped him up to provide to starter Knowshon Moreno. It proved to be a wise decision, as Moreno went down with an injury in the very first game of the season. 

From there, McGahee took off. He topped 100 rushing yards in the team’s Week 2 win against the Bengals, torched the Packers for 103 yards off of just 15 carries in Week 4, and nearly set a new career high with 163 rushing yards against the Raiders in November. McGahee finished out the year with 1,199 rushing yards with an average of 4.8 yards per tote.

With that, the Broncos seemingly had their new No. 1 running back in 2012, the year of Peyton Manning‘s arrival. Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan for McGahee. After a solid first half to the season, a helmet-to-knee hit from Quentin Jammer in November resulted in a torn MCL and an early end to his campaign.

From there, Moreno regained his spot as the team’s top RB and, on this date in 2013, McGahee was released by the Broncos. Sadly, McGahee was unable to return to his old form after the release. McGahee hooked on with the Browns after they traded Trent Richardson to the Colts, but he averaged just 2.7 yards per carry and ran for 377 yards in his 12 games, both career lows. After that, it was curtains for the former first-round pick and University of Miami star.

McGahee had an up-and-down career in the NFL, but he left the game with two Pro Bowl selections and four seasons with upwards of 1,100 rushing yards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: McGahee, Hayne, 49ers, Raiders

The latest out of the West divisions…

  • Ex-Broncos running back Willis McGahee apparently hasn’t found an NFL team willing to take him on, because he’s trying his luck at a different sport altogether…rubgy. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link), McGahee will try out at the National Rugby Football League combine January 12 in Los Angeles. The 33-year-old played in the NFL just last season with the Browns, but was largely ineffective.
  • Improbably, we have more rugby-related news, as Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post reports that Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne visited the Seahawks today; Wilson reported that the 26-year-old met with the division rival 49ers yesterday. We last heard in October that Hayne, who would likely play running back, could fit with Seattle.
  • 49ers rookies Brandon Thomas and Keith Reaser will both remain on the reserve/NFI list after their practice periods ended today, tweets Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. Thomas, a guard, was chosen in the third round of this year’s draft, while Reaser, a cornerback, was a fifth-round pick.
  • As both a current Raider and a Michigan alum, Charles Woodson has a unique perspective on Jim Harbaugh’s potential choice between Oakland and Ann Arbor. So what does Woodson think Harbaugh should do? “If the choice was out there, it would definitely be Michigan,” Woodson told NFL Network (link via CSNBayArea.com). “As a guy that played there, I think the fans would love it, I think it would be great for recruiting and all of that. Just to have a guy that’s proven, he’s won everywhere he’s been as a coach and I don’t think it would be any different if he went to Michigan. I would say ‘yeah.’ Go Blue.”

NFC Links: Cowboys, 49ers, Suh, Cardinals, Redskins

Let’s see what’s happening around the NFC on this Sunday evening…

  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones acknowledged that the team nearly selected Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, tweets NFL.com’s Dan Hellie. The owner added that he will rethink the decision “for the rest of (his) career.” Jones did clarify that he ultimately made the correct pick in offensive tackle Zack Martin (again via a tweet from Hellie).
  • 49ers running back LaMichael James dislocated his elbow in practice and will miss a month, writes Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee. With Kendall Hunter out for the season with a torn ACL, the team only has rookie Carlos Hyde and Jewel Hampton as backup options for Frank Gore.
  • With a depleted running back group, ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson can envision the 49ers placing Hunter on the IR and adding a free agent running back (Twitter link). ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets out a list of possibilities: Willis McGahee, Felix Jones, Michael Bush, Kahlil Bell, Bernard Scott, LaRod Stephens-Howling and (in a separate tweet) fullback Brian Leonard.
  • Count Lions head coach Jim Caldwell among those who believe a contract extension will get done between the team and Ndamukong Suh“I’m always optimistic,” Caldwell said to ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein“I think you know me by now, and I think without question they are working at it, and I think something will be done at the appropriate time.”
  • The Cardinals used Robert Hughes as a fullback during practice, and ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss says the player is a “strong possibility” to be the team’s fourth running back.
  • The Redskins’ release of linebacker Brandon Jenkins should allow some younger players to shine, writes ESPN.com’s John Keim. “We like the play of the guys behind him,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “We thought the earlier we make that move to give Brandon a chance to go somewhere else would be beneficial to him.”

Cap Work Remaining For Broncos

Until rosters are cut down to 53 players, teams are required to be under the $133MM salary cap with their top 51 salaries. In the wake of an aggressive offseason which included signing big-ticket free agents Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, DeMarcus Ware and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos’ top 51 costs $132MM, meaning John Elway and Co. have some bookkeeping to do between now and the end of training camp, explains ESPN’s Jeff Legwold.

Key points:

  • The team is trying to lock up free agents-to-be Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas long-term.
  • Including rollover, the team has about $4.6MM of workable cap space.
  • “Quarterback Peyton Manning has the team’s highest cap figure, at $17.5 million and the Broncos have the biggest cap gap of any position between starter and backup with No. 2 Brock Osweiler, still on his rookie deal, coming in at $959,094 against the cap.”
  • The team has seven tight ends on the roster, five of which — including Thomas, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen — are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2015.
  • “Dead money” hits include Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($2.1MM), Chris Kuper ($1.83MM) and Willis McGahee ($500k).
  • Terrance Knighton‘s representatives were seeking a renegotiation of his contract which calls for him to make $2.75MM in 2014 before the big defensive lineman hits free agency, but the team did not acquiesce.
  • Kicker Matt Prater and punter Britton Colquitt will cost a combined $7.4MM against the cap this season.