Broncos release RB Willis McGahee

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Denver has parted ways with their leading rusher from 2012.

The Denver Broncos released their leading rusher from a season ago, Willis McGahee, on Thursday, first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter and later confirmed in a statement on the team's website.

Over his two seasons in Denver, McGahee totaled 1,930 yards on the ground and eight rushing touchdowns. In 2012, he led the team in rushing yards (731) and carries (167), and tied for the lead in touchdowns on the ground with four. A knee injury ended the running back's season in November.

Broncos blog Mile High Report on Willis McGahee's release

Simply put, the Broncos seem to have too many other younger options at running back. Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway recently said this about the team's stable of rushers:

"You look at our running back situation and we're in a good position there because we've got a lot guys that can play football. We've got a lot of guys that are going to be good football players for us and possibly great."

For example, McGahee's departure could mean that all the special attention being paid to rookie running back Montee Ball this offseason was indeed to prepare him for a very large role in the Broncos' backfield. They also have six other backs remaining the roster, including Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball.

Many of the first-team reps this offseason have gone to Montee Ball and Hillman. Drafted in the second round out of Wisconsin, Ball left Madison as both the Division I FBS career rushing-touchdown record-holder, with 77, as well as the overall career touchdown record-holder, with 83.

Hillman, a third-round pick by the Broncos in 2012, was used sporadically in the regular season but ran a team-high 22 times in the team's playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The move could also signify the Broncos giving Moreno, Denver's first-round pick in 2009, a real shot to make the team. Coming off knee surgery this offseason, Moreno has been limited in OTAs to this point but now has one fewer running back to compete against for a spot on the roster.

Only taking Ball, Moreno and Hillman into account, the Broncos have options at running back that are not only young, but also players the team has spent high draft picks on in recent years. Though the edge is seemingly leaning in Ball's favor right now, McGahee's release signifies that playing time is officially open for the taking in Denver's backfield.

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