Broncos Update Inside Slant - Monday, March 8

So who will carry the ball now that Clinton Portis is gone? Quentin Griffin, who has some Barry Sanders-like moves, will be in the mix. But the Broncos also will give converted fullback Mike Anderson a shot at the starting job. Read all the latest notes, quotes, annecdotes and personnel updates in today's edition of the Broncos Update Inside Slant.

So who will carry the ball now that Clinton Portis is gone? Quentin Griffin, who has some Barry Sanders-like moves, will be in the mix. But the Broncos also will give converted fullback Mike Anderson a shot at the starting job.

And don't be surprised to see Denver sign a player a free agent. They made a run at Oakland's Charlie Garner, but he signed with Tampa Bay.

Plus the Broncos could use one of their top draft picks on a back. They found Portis in the second round two years ago. Anderson agreed to a restructured deal to stay with the Broncos in exchange for a promise by coach Mike Shanahan to get a legitimate shot at the job. Anderson rushed for 1,487 yards as a rookie in 2000 before being moved to fullback.

"It's going to be very competitive, and we are going to play our best players, but I will give him the chance to show us what he can do, like he's done in the past," Shanahan said of Anders. "Only time will tell."

Count team captain Rod Smith among those who isn't worried about who will line up at tailback.

"We're going to make another guy a superstar at running back. I promise you that. It's a given," Smith said.

In fact, that was a big part of Shanahan's thinking when he decided to go ahead with the trade. Denver has had much better luck finding good backs than a solid cover corner.

NOTES, QUOTES AND ANECDOTES

WR Ed McCaffrey has been a fan favorite since he arrived in Denver, and he went out with class, choosing to retire rather than try to catch on with another team or restructure his deal.

"I feel like the luckiest man alive," he said, before giving special thanks to coach Mike Shanahan for "believing in me and giving me a chance" and to his adoring fans.

"The love and support I've gotten from so many millions of people that I haven't even met is overwhelming. I want to thank them for helping my dreams come true."

McCaffrey, who turns 36 in August, leaves the game with 565 catches for 7,422 yards, three Super Bowl rings and 55 career touchdowns.

QUOTE TO NOTE

"That man loves to eat more than anything in the world and he has deprived himself of food for 13 years to be at 215 (pounds). Now he can finally eat." -- Wife Lisa McCaffrey on Ed, whose two best friends now that he has retired are named Ben & Jerry. His natural weight is about 10 or 15 pounds heavier than his playing weight.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

CB Champ Bailey's first-year cap number is $2.5 million, which gives the Broncos a little bit of leeway as they head into free agency. But don't expect them to be big players, other than perhaps adding a running back and defensive tackle.

NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: RB - This may change depending on what the team does in free agency, but the Broncos know they can never have enough running backs; DT - The Broncos likely will part ways with Daryl Gardener after a March arbitration hearing, and they're still looking for that impact player in the middle; WR - Rod Smith is still one of the best in the game but he's getting up in the years and Denver needs to start grooming someone to take his place especially now that Ed McCaffrey has retired. It would help if this pick is a big-time return guy as well.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (9): OT Blake Brockermeyer; WR Chris Cole; FB Reuben Droughns; LB Ian Gold; TE Patrick Hape; S Ryan McNeil; LB Johnny Rutledge; CB Jimmy Spencer; CB Scott Turner.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS TE/LS Mike Leach.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (3): OG Ben Hamilton; DE Reggie Hayward; LB Donnie Spragan.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (2): CB Kelly Herndon; S Chris Young.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: LB Al Wilson.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Champ Bailey.

PLAYERS LOST DE Bert Berry; RB Clinton Portis; OT Ephraim Salaam; OL Steve Herndon; LB Keith Burns

MEDICAL WATCH LB Ian Gold is ready to go for the team's offseason working program scheduled to start March 27, and has begun running sprints. He is showing no signs of the torn ACL he suffered last fall; LB John Mobley isn't yet healed from spinal cord injury but hopes to return at least for part of mini-camp. He has been doing some cardio but still has to get a doctor's clearance; S Nick Ferguson will be ready for Denver's offseason workouts in April after breaking his arm in December.

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