Broncos Update Inside Slant - Monday, April 12

Shannon Sharpe may be close to revealing his decision about whether to retire or return to Denver for another season. Read all the latest notes, quotes, annecdotes and personnel updates about the Broncos in today's edition of the Broncos Update Inside Slant.

Will Shannon Sharpe return for another season? While some teammates doubt it, Rod Smith's gut tells him yes. After all, what else does Sharpe have to do?

A TV commentator's job is no longer available since Dan Marino told the Dolphins thanks-but-no-thanks. And Sharpe himself admits he has been pushing himself hard in workouts the past month.

Calling it quits is never an easy task for a player who has been in the game for so long. And Sharpe admitted years ago that football IS his life. Sharpe says he will let the Broncos know this week, provided he has made up his own mind. Smith is hopeful.

"He'd better come back, I know that," Smith said. "We're going to need him."

The Broncos offense already has undergone plenty of change, with Clinton Portis traded away, Ed McCaffrey retiring and left tackle Ephraim Salaam released in a cap-cutting move.

NOTES, QUOTES, AND ANECDOTES

The Broncos are in position to move up even higher in the draft after trading cornerback Deltha O'Neal to Cincinnati. The trade, which also sends a fourth-round pick to the Bengals, allows Denver to jump from No. 24 to No. 17 in the first round. Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist would only say that the move gives Denver more options and flexibility.

The Broncos, who a month ago traded away running back Clinton Portis, may not be done dealing yet. They still have the extra second-round pick they obtained from Washington along with cornerback Champ Bailey in the Portis deal. Moving up into the top 12 is a lot easier from the 17th spot than the 24th spot.

O'Neal gets a fresh start in Cincinnati, after refusing to play wide receiver for Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

"I have no bad blood against (Shanahan)," O'Neal told Cincinnati reporters. "I started my career in Denver and I was happy. I'm moving on. You grow up and you lean from your mistakes and hopefully I won't have any mistakes when I come here."

QUOTE TO NOTE

"There's no reason he couldn't come out and be as productive." -- QB Jake Plummer on TE Shannon Sharpe, who had one of his best seasons ever in 2003.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos traded embattled CB Deltha O'Neal to Cincinnati along with a fourth-round pick to move up seven spots in the draft, from No. 24 to 17. O'Neal proved another first-round bust for Shanahan, though he made the Pro Bowl in 2001.

The Broncos also finalized deals to keep defensive end Bert Berry (restricted free agent), CB Kelly Herndon (exclusive rights) and S Chris Young (exclusive rights player).

The Cinncinati Bengals have reportedly made an agreement with Broncos' defensive tackle to a four-year $9.3 million contract. Denver will release Gardener after June 2 when he will be able to sign the new incentive laced contract.

NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: RB - Garrison Hearst is in the fold, 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 (5): OT Blake Brockermeyer; LB Ian Gold; TE Patrick Hape; S Ryan McNeil; LB Johnny Rutledge.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (2): OG Ben Hamilton; LB Donnie Spragan.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: FB Reuben Droughns; DE Reggie Hayward; CB Kelly Herndon; TE/LS Mike Leach; CB Jimmy Spencer; CB Scott Turner; LB Al Wilson; S Chris Young.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Champ Bailey; DE Marco Coleman; DT Luther Elliss; OT Cornell Green; RB Garrison Hearst; WR Willie Jackson; DE Raylee Johnson; S John Lynch; QB Mike Quinn; CB Reggie Stephens; TE Jed Weaver.

PLAYERS LOST: DE Bert Berry; LB Keith Burns; WR Chris Cole; OG Steve Herndon; CB Deltha O'Neal; RB Clinton Portis; OT Ephraim Salaam.

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