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Published on 12/28/2012 at Fri Dec 28 09:55.
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(US Presswire Photo)

The Denver Broncos will have to make a big decision regarding their backfield in the offseason.

Will veteran Willis McGahee return for the 2013 season?

In 2011, McGahee signed a four-year, $9.5 million deal with Denver.  In his first season, McGahee ran with authority and benefited from Denver’s zone-read offense, rushing for 1,119 yards on the ground.

It was a different story in 2012, as McGahee was productive (167 carries for 731 yards) but also plagued by turnovers (fumbling five times in nine starts). Those kind of mistakes from a 31-year old veteran are not acceptable, and the Broncos haven’t exactly missed McGahee since he went down with an injury and landed on injured reserve.

In McGahee’s absence, 25-year old Knowshon Moreno has re-emerged as a starter in Denver and has finally started running like the Broncos hoped he would when they drafted him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.  Over his past five starts, Moreno has rushed 115 times for 466 yards (4.0 average) and three scores while adding 145 receiving yards to his totals.

Moreno has been running far better than McGahee was earlier in the year and hasn’t fumbled in 116 carries.  Moving forward, it appears likely that Moreno will stay in Denver (he is owed $1.7 million in 2013 and $1.31 million in 2014), but McGahee is another story.

The Broncos drafted Ronnie Hillman in the third round last April and Jacob Hester was brought in mid-season to be the team’s short-yardage and blocking back.  The team likes the potential Hillman has and Moreno will be coming back—Hester may return, too, and if the team keeps Lance Ball for special teams purposes, that would leave McGahee as the odd man out.

McGahee is under contract through 2014 (he is owed $2.5 million in 2013 and $2 million the following year), but it’s hard to think of a role for the veteran in Denver’s offense next season.  Going on age 32, McGahee could provide depth and experience, but his ball security could prove to be a liability, especially in the playoffs.

Ultimately, the Broncos may look back on the success the ground game has had in McGahee’s absence and declare Willis expendable.  It may not sound fair, but it is the life of an aging NFL running back:  produce or go home.

What are your thoughts?  Should the Broncos bring back McGahee next season, or move on with another running back?  Dish out your thoughts in the comments below and vote in the poll!

Should the Broncos bring back McGahee in 2013?

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  • E. Halsey Miles

    I’m not ready to trust Moreno yet, though I’m encouraged by his play this season. He’s still not elusive.

    I think a rotation of Moreno + McGahee + Hillman is still the right way to go, where Moreno is the nominal starter and McGahee and Hillman play situationally and keep Moreno from getting too many carries.

  • Jon

    I think it’s McGahee that we would have to worry about getting too many carries.

  • Carlo Scuri

    i agree with you. Moreno sucked for 2 and a half years, we can’t trust him as a starter after only 4 o 5 five good games. We can’t find a better RB than McGahee with less than 2.5 million contract, so we must keep Willis on the roster.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    Well if Moreno is the starter, probably not. If McGahee is the starter, then yes. But I think it would really need to be more of a split duty. Play Moreno for a series or 2, then McGahee for 1. Bring in Hillman for the odd play here and there so you can use his speed out in the middle of the field.

  • AZDynamics

    Well, they could always jettison McGahee and keep Lance Ball . . .

  • TheTroglodyte

    McGahee was less explosive this year than last year. He’ll be far less explosive next year than this year after suffering yet another major injury to his old body.

    It’s time to say goodbye and draft another rb in the later rounds of the draft. There will be several good ones available in round 3 or 4 this year.

  • areferee

    Here is a Bronco joke…

    Where do you get an orange cart before the Bronco horse?

    On BroncoTalk, of course, of course!

    Why are we turning on McGahee right before game 16 and his possible return during a playoff run? This story would be appropriate during the doldrums of March, or as a precursor to the April draft… but NOW?

    I don’t get it Jon.

    How about something germane to week 17, like: Can Miami and Indy kick some east coast and gulf coast ass? Or: Will Pioli and Crennel run screaming into the Rocky Mountain wilderness, never to be seen again?

    No offense, but don’t be so offensive to our offense during our current offensive.

  • Jon

    My bad, Ref. Was just thinking about Willis’ future today and wanted to share. You are right, though, this topic is more appropriate for the offseason.

  • TheTroglodyte

    As much as I dig Ref I have to disagree on this one. The BRONCOS shouldn’t be thinking about what they are going to do with Willis. We are not the organization though we are fans. It’s great to throw things like that out any time of the year. A fun read that gets comments is always welcome in my book.

  • Pete Baron

    Here’s the thing…. McGahee had already played himself out of a starting gig for the 2013 season by the time he got injured. Having Moreno in the stable was just dumb luck.

    I think it would be a HUGE mistake to have RBs alternate series during the AFC Championship game. Ever hear the saying “stick with those who got you there?” Well, this is no different. IF we make the Championship game, Willis should be active, but he shouldn’t play unless Moreno/Hillman gets injured.

    I want our starter to have a rhythm and a swagger/confidence about him. I don’t want him looking over his shoulder and wonder “if I don’t average 5 yards per carry and the other guy does, they’re gonna stick with him”. You know what that would lead to? It would lead to fumbles or just horrible play. Like the old addage goes, “when you have 2 QBs, you really have none”… well, the same can be said about the Moreno/McGahee conundrum.

    Start Moreno unless he just completely blows or goes down injured. Keep McGahee on the sidelines. Play Hillman as you normally would. If Fox is smart, he’ll say when the time comes, “Moreno is our starter, and McGahee will keep healing while being activated”. That’s the easy and PC way of squashing any outside distractions. Besides, the last thing we want/need is McGahee to start up where he left off and fumble away games in the playoffs. At this point, I trust Moreno more than any RB on our roster. Earlier in the season, that seemed unthinkable, but as some time during his humbling benching, Moreno screwed his head on straight and learned how to play.

    Moreno is proving to be worthy of this special year. I’d be STUNNED if Fox yanked Moreno in the title game in favor of McGahee. Much like how JDR didn’t mess with the defensive chemistry once Mays/Porter were out, I find it impossible to think that in the title game, Fox would decide to start messing with the offensive chemistry and cohesion. Ride the horse that got you there; the horse in this case is Moreno!

    Also, welcome back BT Staff. This place was a ghost town during the holidays.

  • Pete Baron

    I couldn’t disagree more. I wrote why further down this page.

  • Pete Baron

    Nah, on a slow week (couldn’t get anything I wrote posted), this is perfect and welcome. BT was a dead horse for a week. Things like this get the posting juices flowing again!

  • areferee

    Touche, mon ami. Le Trog gagne à nouveau.
    L’arbitre a le sifflet entre ses jambes.

  • Jon

    Text me when you submit something to make sure it gets up.

  • TheTroglodyte

    ROTFLMAO!!!! I had to plug that into Google translator. That’s why you are the man!

  • Jon

    Have to use Google translator half the time Ref tweets me, but don’t tell him that!

  • anthony33

    I think we will need to go the free agency route or strike gold in the second or third round of the draft. Agree with the comments about not being totally sold on Moreno though that could change over the next six weeks.

  • daddymatt

    Yes! I do think Denver can take the Pats now. Earlier in this season we hadn’t found are chemistry, now “LOOK OUT” plus are D is better then theirs.

  • Doom92

    I concur sir! Oh yes; on both the line up and the ghost town ;-).

  • Doom92

    I as well agree that for “next” year we will have to ad to stay ahead at RB. I think that simply going with what we have would be a mistake!

  • Doom92

    I disagree, it is absolutely pertinent now. Its to bad he apologized for a good write up. Perhaps he thinks more of you than his story…lol.

  • Jason Holm

    I agree. Moreno’s down side was mostly due to injury. He’s healthy, he’s playing smart, patient football and doing so with the authority required to hurtle Ed Reed for 5 more after contact. Moreno is more versatile and faster through the hole than MaGahee and at least as good in pass protection.

    Nearly all of Denver’s injuries have been fortuitous (with the sole exception of Kuper), improving the team overall. Not that I’d want any player injured.
    Hunter < Wolfe/Ayers
    Walton < Koppen
    Mays < Brooking
    Porter < Harris/Carter
    McGahee < Moreno

    Most teams (Texans anyone?) suffer terribly when starters go down. We save our best for last. It makes me want to chuckle. That being said, we probably can't afford any more key injuries.

  • Jason Holm

    Meh. Moreno, Hillman and Hester are a good combination, I think. Neither of the others are playoff/long term solutions.

  • areferee


    NO ONE thinks much of zebras… except another of the same species.

    (BTW: There was nothing wrong with Jon’s story.)

  • areferee

    I HEARD that! Maird!!!

  • areferee

    I HEARD that! Merde!

  • Doom92

    LOL for sure ;-).
    (:-) I knew you were not saying that)

  • cdubarkansasrep

    Well, I read the comments before popping this question.Who ever said McGhee wanted to return with us? Who is to say he isn’t somewhere in a townhouse contemplating retirement after this season, espicially if we can make a superbowl run?

  • Jon

    He may not want to return, but I doubt he’s retiring before playing at least one more season.

  • CehnadianBroncoFan

    I am quite shocked that so many are forgetting the post fumble recoveries which McGahee made in game. You ALWAYS saw McGahee come back and almost play angry that me fumbled. It showed in his plays and it showed in how he was able to grind for those extra yards after contact. The big difference between McGahee and others (Ball & Hillman) is that McGahee is a larger back who can block and power up the middle. Hester was brought in late in the season to compensate for the power runs up the middle but frankly did a VERY poor job of it. After seeing Ball fumble a lot this past season as well as run into and block the wrong player in the loss against the ravens – IMO Ball and Hester both need to go. We need to acquire an additional RB either by FA or Draft. I would be shocked personally if the teams trainers don’t work with Hillman in the off-season to assist him with bulking up while keeping his speed. Couple a larger Hillman, a healthy Moreno & an healthy McGahee + the x-factor of a RB in the daft/ FA I think that makes our team well positioned next season.