DENVER (CBS4/AP) – The Denver Broncos have released quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Ronnie Hillman. They also added veteran free agent quarterback Austin Davis.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Broncos will save $4.5 million and won’t have to pay the Philadelphia Eagles the conditional 7th-round draft pick with the move.
Schefter is also reporting that Sanchez was immediately picked up by the Dallas Cowboys.
Former Colorado State star running back Kapri Bibbs, who was looking to back up C.J. Anderson on the active Broncos roster to start the season, made the team for the first time after spending the last two seasons on the practice squad.
“Ronnie was a guy that did a lot of good things for us. We just thought that with Kapri we were probably in better shape with what he could do on special teams,” General manager John Elway said.
Hillman led the team in rushing last season, but played only sparingly in the Super Bowl when C.J. Anderson ran for 90 yards and Denver’s only offensive TD. Anderson signed a four-year, $18 million deal in the offseason and Hillman re-signed on a one-year, $2 million deal after finding no interest on the open market.
Elway’s entire eight-man draft class made the 53-man cutdown, a remarkable achievement for a Super Bowl champion. Also, undrafted rookie nose tackle Kyle Peko made it.
“It’s always good when you have your young guys making the team,” Elway said.
Elway acquired Sanchez from the Philadelphia Eagles after Peyton Manning retired in March and Brock Osweiler bolted to Houston in free agency two days later. Sanchez, however, was beaten out by second-year pro Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015 from Northwestern.
“I had a long talk with Mark today and he handled it with great class,” Elway said. “… It was a tough situation to walk into.”
The backup is rookie Paxton Lynch, a first-round pick who will get plenty of work at practice as he continues adjusting from the spread offense he operated at Memphis to coach Gary Kubiak’s West Coast offense.
The Broncos open the season Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers, whom they beat in Super Bowl 50.
Other veterans who failed to make the team were running back Juwan Thompson, a two-year pro, and defensive lineman Henry Milton.
Safety Shiloh Keo was placed on the suspended list. He’ll miss the first two games because of a drunken driving arrest in the offseason.
In another move the Broncos signed free agent quarterback Austin Davis to a one-year deal.
Davis, a five-year veteran, started eight games for the St. Louis Rams in 2014 and threw for 12 touchdowns, nine interceptions and more than 2,000 yards.
Davis spent the 2015 season and part of the 2016 preseason with the Cleveland Browns.
“He’s coming in to learn the offense, we’ll take it one step at a time,” Elway said. “Let’s put it that way. Any time you bring in a guy this late, it’s gonna take some time to get him turned around. Trevor’s the guy. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Trevor and believe that he can do the job. It’s Trevor’s job, and he’s not going to be looking over his shoulder.”
Another practice squad graduate is second-year wide receiver Jordan Taylor, who parlayed his experience as Manning’s personal practice partner during the QB’s comeback from a foot injury last year into a roster spot. He caught two TD passes from Lynch in the final preseason game.
“He should be proud,” Elway said. “He won the job not only for what he did on Thursday but for the work he’s put in this whole offseason.”
Also, Elway labeled reports that the Broncos were shopping Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib as false. Elway said he hasn’t heard of any possible punishment from the league over an incident in June in which Talib suffered an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his right leg.
“We’ve heard nothing” about any NFL suspension of Talib, who’s had firearm incidents in the past, Elway said. “So yeah, we’re full speed ahead. It would be very disappointing if we were told at this point in time.”
In other matters, Elway said:
-He had no update on contract talks with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. “The only thing that’s changed there was Tavon Austin,” who recently signed a four-year, $42 million deal with the Rams, including $30 million guaranteed.
-He went with rookie punter Riley Dixon over veteran Britton Colquitt because “we like Riley’s upside. Obviously, Britton did a great job for us and really kicked well at the end of last year.” Dixon had an 18-yard punt in the preseason finale. “When you go with a young guy, there’s going to be some growing pains,” Elway said. “But we’re willing to risk that with Riley.”
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