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Published on 05/26/2012 at Sat May 26 09:30.
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Running back Knowshon Moreno seen in 2011. (Image courtesy of Gary C. Caskey/UPI)

On Wednesday, the Denver Broncos traded cornerback Cassius Vaughn to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for fullback Chris Gronkowski. According to Mike Klis, it was the first trade executed by Matt Russell, the team’s new Director of Player Personnel.

That presumably means that Russell has essentially taken over duties which were held by former General Manager Brian Xanders, who the team parted ways with earlier in the month.  The Vaughn for Gronkowski trade was the first executed by Russell, but it likely won’t be the last.

Two players that should be traded before or during the 2012 season (the trade deadline has been moved to Week 8) are linebacker D.J. Williams and running back Knowshon Moreno.  If the Broncos do decide to move on from Williams and/or Moreno, a fifth or sixth round conditional selection would likely be the compensation.  

Moreno was drafted by the Broncos in 2009 (12th overall) but his production hasn’t been as high as the team would have liked (1,905 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons).  Inadequate performance, injuries that caused him to miss twelve games, the emergence of Willis McGahee and receiving a DUI in February have all negatively affected Moreno’s chances of staying in Denver.

In Moreno’s defense, he has proven himself to be solid receiving back (catching 76 passes for 686 yards and six touchdowns in his career), and in a Peyton Manning-led offense, perhaps this will be the year Moreno breaks out.  Coming off ACL surgery with heavy competition at the running back position, that seems unlikely.

Moreno still has two years remaining on his reasonable contract (he is owed less than $3 million through 2014), so the team may retain him.  With returning starter McGahee and second round draft selection Ronnie Hillman presumably going to be the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs on Denver’s roster, Moreno will be competing with Mario Fannin, Lance Ball, Jeremiah Johnson and Xavier Omon for the third and final running back spot on the Broncos’ depth chart.

Moreno is expected to receive the most competition from Fannin in training camp.  Last year, Fannin signed with the team as a college free agent following the draft and impressed at training camp with the fastest legs in the backfield (he ran a 4.37 at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine) before an ankle injury caused the team to place him on the injured reserve list, ending his season before it even started.  If Fannin had made it to the preseason, he likely would have been Denver’s third running back in 2011 (behind McGahee and Moreno).

If Moreno doesn’t show a lot of promise (and if Fannin does) during the summer, he could be the next player shipped out of town by V.P. John Elway and Coach John Fox.  Consider that motivation, Knowshon.

Williams is another player who has faced recent injury bugs and DUI arrests.  The main difference between Williams and Moreno is that Williams has been productive since being drafted by the team in the first round (17th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft (810 tackles, 20.5 sacks and 13 forced fumbles).  Unfortunately for Williams, he is facing a six-game performance enhancing drug suspension from the NFL and he wasn’t missed by the defense in 2011 when he was out with injuries (Wesley Woodyard filled in and recorded 97 tackles and forced two fumbles).

The Broncos owe Williams $11 million over the next two seasons and recently re-signed Woodyard to a two-year, $3.5 million deal.  Woodyard’s friendly contract and production as a starter won’t help Williams’ chances of sticking around.  Considering that the team re-signed Woodyard, drafted outside linebacker Danny Trevathan, and signed college free agent outside linebacker Steven Johnson in the offseason, Denver appears to be prepared to enter the 2012 season with or without Williams on the roster.

What are your thoughts on Williams and Moreno? Should the team keep them around, or get the best compensation possible before they become free agents in 2014?

  • http://twitter.com/TimLynch1978 Tim Lynch

    Great write up Jon!

    I think the Broncos brought in a ton of talented running backs this offseason, so I would guess Moreno’s days are numbered.  DJ on the other hand, I just don’t feel like we brought in enough talent to fill the hole on the depth chart he would leave.

  • Anonymous

    Damn thats rootin bad, I’ve always liked D.J. but as the adage goes ‘its just business’ its funny how if a team axes a loyal player, its just business, if a player leaves a team HE’s a trader.

    Hope DJ goes somewhere he will find success like Vaughn did.

    I got no hard feelings for Moreno, he’s still got potential he’s not horrible when he holds onto the ball & stays healthy. But bein picked so high and have small/no role in the #1 rushing offense last year (even be4 injury) I gotta consider him a bust.

    But he could still find success

  • Anonymous

    Moreno is a bust, take what you can get.  Williams, while up and down, is still decent.  Nothing on the roster I see that could replace him.

  • Anonymous

    Dan Gronkowski didn’t work out for us…let’s try Chris Gronkowski. If that doesn’t work maybe we can lure Rob out of NE….lol

    I’m not really a fan of this trade. I liked Cassius. But we do have some depth at CB now, and no real serviceable FB so I don’t hate the trade either. I’d hate to see DJ go. I don’t think we could get fair compensation for him because of the suspension thing, and the lack of solid depth behind him…as of now. If someone (Irving, Trev) steps up and is ready to play and performs well then I could see DJ traded before his suspension is up.

    Knowshow…bust.

  • Tom9798

    Don’t know about Moreno and Williams.  It’s like I’m getting that Ty Warren crick in the back of my neck again.
     
    You remember our DT Warren?  Didn’t play in 2010 with a hip injury, didn’t play in 2011 with a torn triceps (the Broncos paid him $4,000,000), doesn’t want to re-structure his contract, although he hasn’t played in two years?
     
    Williams didn’t play last year either; I’m trying to remember what Moreno contributed?
     
    So basically, the Bronco’s came within two games of the Super-Bowl without these three players anyway.
     
    The Broncos might be able to get a couple picks, and save a chunk of change to boot.
     
    I’ve liked D.J. and Ty when I’ve seen them play . . . don’t know on this one.
     

  • Anonymous

     Tim ,  I agree.  Broncos  have several  guys who can replace Moreno, and so getting a 6th for him might be a good thing.  They don’t have anyone who can obviously replace him.  Woodyard can and did, but if he  were to get hurt,   don’t see anyone they know for sure could fill.  Moreno has never been great, Williams has.  The suspension thing is the “X” in this equation.  If they think his challenge might delay the 6 week until late in the season,  I think they might pull the trigger.
       

  • Anonymous

    i say let’s see what moreno looks like in camp before they trade him, and listen to offers on dj now. anything less than a fifth for either of them is not worth it

  • Anonymous

    See ya Moreno!

    I’ve never thought Williams was a great player. He’s a slightly above average LB at best. But he’s more valuable to us than a 5th or 6th that isn’t even likely to make the team. As often as our LB’s have been beat up the last few years, I’d keep him for depth if nothing else. He can fill in inside and outside and that makes him worth at least a 4th round to us. If he isn’t worth that to someone else (and he probably isn’t), keep him.

  • MeOMy

    We are lacking depth at LB. I don’t think trading Williams is worth it. As for Moreno he was actually having some good games last year when he got injured. He has also always been good with his hands. I think they should wait and see until after camp on Moreno.

  • Anonymous

    Just say no to Knowshow… I’m a noted hater (did I just call myself a hater…lol) but its not with out merit.

    Williams… We can live with out DJ as well…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MREJNA3ETPYVUUE546VEPYLY7M Glenn

    D.J. is has the potential to be a yearly pro-bowler. He is averaging more than 100 tackles per year and 4ish sacks. He is a coverage LB and as long as we have the like of Doom and Miller #92 &#58 we don’t need a guy to get a bunch of sacks but he sures up the field. He plays sideline to sideline better then anyone in the NFL anything less then a 3rd rounder for him isn’t worth it. As far as Moreno goes I think we got him a little too early but he still has sick potential. If he can stay healthy and figure out how to keep ahold of the  ball he is lethal just remember kids he is a SEC RB and in anyones mind that should speak volumes to the ability to run the ball with strength and endurance. 

  • http://twitter.com/wc_ben Benjamin DeRita

     Got to keep D.J. hes been the man all over that line since he was a rookie. Maybe the 6 games will be dropped down to 4 — worth keeping a loyal pro bowler around.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t feel like there’s quite enough experience or talent at LB to trade D.J. right now–the time to trade him would have been last year, when he was higher value.  I don’t think we’d get good value for him this year.

    Last year Moreno looked excellent until he got injured.  I feel like it’s wait and see for him:  if he comes out in training camp and rips it up, then he’s a legit threat; if not, then he’s gone.  Also, consider:  after McGahee we don’t have another between the tackles RB.  This is not Moreno’s forte, either, but I don’t see Hillman or Fannin filling that role.  And don’t give me any of that Lance Ball or Jeremiah Johnson crap.  ;)

  • Anonymous

    LB’s are a dime a dozen. Williams is nothing special. 
    http://www.nfl.com/player/dhanijones/2504248/profile

    Dhani Jones had 125 tackles in 2010 and nobody even picked him up for the league minimum in 2011. Tackles mean jack squat at the LB position. Every starting lb gets a crap load of tackles.

  • Anonymous

     fannin is big enough to run inside

  • Anonymous

    I think we need to keep both. Moreno will be good on third down. He is a good pass protector. He also has shown flashes, but nothing to impressive. Willis is also 30 something. This is a make or break year for Moreno to officially label him a bust. Manning has also done well with RBs.

    Dj is a good solid LB in all categories of a LB in coverage, pass rush, tackling etc. He is also versatile and we may need help at MLB with Mays and Irving being the only true MLB for us. If we had more depth I would say trade him at the end of the season when his value will be back up.

  • Anonymous

     I just read the  Den Post article about Vickerson being back at 327pounds.
     The numbers in the article seem wrong to me. It says he played at 275 and about 40 % body fat.  That means he had about 165-170 pounds at most of body other  mass.  He is now at 327 and 24% BF.  That means he is carrying 80 pounds of BF.   He would have to loose about 50 pounds of fat and add about 30 pounds of muscle in  less that  a year.  I doubt the numbers are right.  Any thoughts?  I would love to see him play at 320 24% or maybe a bit less on both counts.  

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    Numbers seemed extreme to me too, but not impossible. I lost a ton of weight while packing on muscle in the past few years, and that was with one or two hours a day during the muscle-building parts. I could see a full-time athlete committing to doing more, quicker.

    Just posted about the Vickerson story.

  • Pingback: Denver Broncos News: Vaughn traded; Moreno and Williams to follow? | Fanatic Sports and Cards

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2582236 Elway4Life

    Wow DJ Williams is owed that much (and will also miss 6 games)!  I’m surprised he’s still on the roster! I think he’d need to take a pay cut for us to keep him! As for Moreno he’s dirt cheap so let’s see what he does in camp and how hard he works!