Broncos Update Inside Slant - Monday, March 15

Coach Mike Shanahan raved about his track record of not losing players to free agency that the team wanted back. But unlike years ago, when the Broncos were in the midst of their Super Bowl run, players aren't bending over backward to remain in Denver for less. Read all the latest notes, quotes, annecdotes and personnel updates in today's edition of the Broncos Update Inside Slant.

Coach Mike Shanahan raved about his track record of not losing players to free agency that the team wanted back.

Shannon Sharpe, who left for two years to play for Baltimore, was the notable exception.

But unlike years ago, when the Broncos were in the midst of their Super Bowl run, players aren't bending over backward to remain in Denver for less. Defensive end Bert Berry jumped ship for more money with a perennial loser like Arizona. Linebacker Keith Burns, a prominent player in the locker room, also left to sign with Tampa Bay.

And linebacker Ian Gold, who was promised a knee injury wouldn't affect his negotiations, very well may sign elsewhere, too. Ditto for fullback Reuben Droughns.

There seemed a time when players felt a loyalty to the Broncos organization. More and more, however, players are realizing it's all about business.

With the Broncos cap-strapped after trading for Champ Bailey, Denver doesn't have the big bucks to be much of a player in free agency. The best bet for the Broncos to fill some needs will be in the draft.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--DT Daryl Gardener was back in Denver for his arbitration hearing, but he won't be back with the Broncos. The club plans to release him on June 2, and already has given his agent permission to obtain offers from other teams. Terms of a settlement, struck amid an arbitration hearing over his signing bonus, remain confidential.

--The Broncos added another defensive lineman, but there's no guarantee Marco Coleman will work out any better than Leon Lett, Kavika Pittman, Lional Dalton or Chester McGlockton.

QUOTE TO NOTE

"I'm just happy it got resolved." -- DT Daryl Gardener after he reached a settlement with the Broncos, cutting short an arbitration hearing over his signing bonus.

NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: Running back - This may change depending on what the team does in free agency, but the Broncos know they can never have enough running backs; Defensive tackle - The Broncos will part ways with Daryl Gardener in June, and they're still looking for that impact player in the middle; Wide receiver - 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. To help out at this spot the Broncos have signed wide receiver Willie Jackson.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (8): OT Blake Brockermeyer; WR Chris Cole; FB Reuben Droughns; LB Ian Gold; TE Patrick Hape; S Ryan McNeil; LB Johnny Rutledge; CB Jimmy Spencer.

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: TE/LS Mike Leach; CB Scott Turner; LB Al Wilson.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Champ Bailey; DE Marco Coleman; WR Willie Jackson; QB Mike Quinn.

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

MEDICAL WATCH No updates.


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