Broncos Update Insider - 3/14

Catch up on all the latest news on the Denver Broncos, including the status of DT Marcus Thomas (in photo) and fired GM Ted Sundquist.

Ted Sundquist had been with the Denver Broncos 16 years and spent six as the team's general manager when he was suddenly fired.

Sundquist said he was surprised after coach Mike Shanahan called him into his office and delivered the news.

"Surprised. Disappointed," Sundquist said. "I started my way up from the bottom with the Broncos, been there 16-plus seasons and loved every minute of it."

The move with Sundquist is another major offseason move for the Broncos management. On the coaching staff, assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates stepped down and assistant head coach/offense Mike Heimerdinger went to Tennessee.

Shanahan has final say in personnel decisions but leaned on Sundquist for advice on free agency, trades and the draft. After six seasons -- five of which were winning campaigns -- Shanahan apparently didn't see eye-to-eye with Sundquist anymore.

"I am grateful to Ted for all his hard work and efforts on behalf of the Broncos for the past 16 years," Shanahan said in a statement. "Now is the time for our organization to move forward and look at new directions."

The Broncos did have plenty of success with Sundquist in charge of the front office, including a trip to the AFC Championship Game at the end of the 2005 season. He was instrumental in the Broncos acquiring players such as cornerback Champ Bailey and quarterback Jay Cutler.

"I tried to do everything I could each and every day to help the Denver Broncos win a Super Bowl," Sundquist said. "From that standpoint, I'm more than happy with regards to how I did my job."

Director of player personnel Jim Goodman and assistant general manager Jeff Goodman will handle many of Sundquist's old responsibilities.

--The Denver Broncos selected defensive tackle Marcus Thomas knowing he carried a character risk.

Thomas was kicked off the University of Florida's football team as a senior after failed drug tests and breaking an agreement with the coaching staff. When Thomas was arrested on March 1 for possession of a controlled substance, questions about his character came back again.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Thomas wouldn't be given any second chances, and even though Thomas has maintained his innocence, he put the team in a bad spot.

"Marcus felt he let (Shanahan) down getting arrested," Thomas' agent Richard Burnoski said.

Thomas and his lawyers insist Thomas had no knowledge of a baggie with a small amount of cocaine that was found during a traffic stop.

Thomas was a passenger in a truck, although police reports say neither Thomas nor the driver took responsibility for the baggie. Both were arrested.

As Thomas awaited word on whether he would be charged in the matter, the Broncos did show some patience. A Broncos statement on the matter said they would continue to keep an eye on the legal developments in the case.

Thomas is a talented tackle, one reason the Broncos selected him in the fourth round despite his personal issues. He was quiet and stayed out of trouble his rookie season, before the arrest, which is a reason the Broncos didn't quickly pass judgment after the arrest.

"The Broncos are hopeful that no charges will be filed, and we are monitoring the situation as it goes forward," the Broncos' team statement said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Denver Broncos will likely put Boss Bailey, the former Lions linebacker who signed with the Broncos as a free agent, at starting strong-side linebacker right away. The Broncos didn't get great play out of their linebackers last season, but Bailey, who joins his brother Champ on the Broncos, should help.

"I'm excited to have the chance to play with my brother, and I know that Boss' speed and versatility will have a great impact on our defense," Champ Bailey said in a statement.

--The Broncos continued to show interest in former Browns defensive tackle Orpheus Roye, who was weighing his options as a free agent. The Broncos haven't added to the defensive line in free agency this offseason.

--Denver signed a pair of veteran safeties, Marquand Manuel and Marlon McCree. John Lynch and Hamza Abdullah could be pushed by both veterans for a spot on the starting defense.

--Denver signed Edell Shepherd, who will have a chance to make the roster at receiver. He has been with Detroit, Houston, Tampa Bay and Chicago, and has 13 career catches since breaking into the NFL in 2002.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I can't wait to get on the field with him." -- Broncos CB Champ Bailey on the team signing his younger brother, linebacker Boss Bailey.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

1. Defensive tackle: Without much left in free agency, the Broncos could use the draft to add some depth on the interior line. The legal situation involving Marcus Thomas also could be a major problem at defensive tackle, which is already a position of need. Veteran Alvin McKinley should return as one starter, and Thomas will probably start if he's still with the team.

2. Safety: John Lynch is back for another season, but probably only one more. The team likes Hamza Abdullah at the other safety, but he's still inexperienced and will have to make strides this season. A veteran signee could fill the gap between the present and the future.

3. Linebacker: Once the Broncos add to their linebacking corps, they'll have a better idea if they can move D.J. Williams back to his natural outside linebacker position. Niko Koutouvides could be a replacement in the middle, and it's hoped Boss Bailey will win the other outside spot. Denver released Ian Gold, who was coming off a poor season, but that does make the Broncos a bit thinner at linebacker.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--TE Stephen Alexander is very unlikely to be back, he will probably retire.
--K Jason Elam will probably be back; both sides are interested in having him return.
--S Nick Ferguson was benched last year and finished his second straight season on injured reserve. He will look at his options in free agency.
--FB Cecil Sapp should return, he's a versatile performer who fits the Broncos offense well.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--C Chris Myers (tendered at $927,000 with 6th-round pick as compensation) filled in well for Tom Nalen last year, and his versatility will be an asset even if Nalen returns at 100 percent this season.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--LB Boss Bailey: UFA Lions; $17.5M/5 yrs, $4.35M SB.
--WR Keary Colbert: UFA Panthers: $7.3M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--LB Niko Koutouvides: UFA Seahawks; $7.5M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--S Marquand Manuel: UFA Panthers; $4.5M/3 yrs, $500,000 guaranteed.
--S Marlon McCree: FA Chargers; terms unknown.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--S Hamza Abdullah: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban: UFA; 1 YR, terms unknown.
--DE John Engelberger: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Domonique Foxworth: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--TE Nate Jackson: UFA; $2M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--CB Karl Paymah: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--OT Erik Pears: Potential ERFA; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST
--LB Ian Gold (released).
--LB Warrick Holdman (released).
--OT Matt Lepsis (retired).
--WR Rod Smith (retired).
--WR Javon Walker (released).



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