Hillman, Sanchez released as Denver Broncos set roster at 53 following final round of cuts

Signing of veteran quarterback Austin Davis rounds out deep Denver roster.

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Credit: Jake Marsing, 5280 Sports Network

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After months of OTA’s, mini-camps, rookie mini-camps, training camps, and preseason games, the Denver Broncos roster is finally set. However, it’s almost certainly far from final.

The defending Super Bowl champions made made 23 roster moves Saturday to get down to the league mandated 53-man roster.

Most notably, the Broncos released veteran running back Ronnie Hillman, who had been with the team since being drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, and quarterback Mark Sanchez, who general manager John Elway signed during the offseason to compete for Denver’s starting job after the retirement of five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning.

Last Monday, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak announced the job had been won by second-year Northwestern alum Trevor Siemain. Less than one week later, Sanchez got the ax.

“We had a long talk with Mark today,” Broncos’ general manager and executive vice president of football operations John Elway said. “He handled it with great class. I know he’s disappointed. He wanted to stay here. We just thought that with where we are, it’s probably best for us to go different ways at this point in time. But, Mark was great. He handled everything great. It was a tough situation to walk into. Anytime you walk into a Super Bowl team, quarterback is going to be a big part of it, especially when you follow a guy that retired like Peyton, who retired last year. It’s always a tough spot and there was a lot of focus on it. But, I thought he handled it great. It was just unfortunate he didn’t win that job.”

The Broncos quickly made a transaction to replace Sanchez. They signed veteran Austin Davis to a one-year deal. Davis last played for the Cleveland Browns and has 10 career NFL starts.

“He’s coming in to learn the offense; we’ll take it one step at a time,” Elway said. “Let’s put it that way. Anytime you bring a guy in this late, it’s going to take some time to get him turned around.”

While the story of the day may be Davis and Sanchez, the Broncos remain confident in Siemian just days from the season-opener against the Carolina Panthers.

“Trevor’s the guy,” Elway said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in Trevor and believe that he can do the job. So, he’s not going to be looking over his shoulder. He’s got a lot of support. Trevor won the job. I’m excited to see him play. I think we’re in good shape there.”

The decision to release Hillman was among Elway’s most difficult decisions. The 24-year-old, who led the Broncos in rushing last season, was locked in a position battle with Colorado State University alum Kapri Bibbs for the final running back job behind lead-back C.J. Anderson and rookie Devontae Booker.

Hillman came into that competition with an automatic disadvantage. He’s never played special teams. Bibbs, meanwhile, is more than willing to contribute in that third phase of the game. That seemed to be the deciding factor for Elway and company.

“Obviously, Ronnie was a guy that did a lot of good things for us,” Elway said. “We just thought that with Kapri we were probably in better shape with what he can do on special teams. It’s always tough. They’re all close. That one was really close. Kapri’s worked very hard and deserved a shot so we’re going to give Kapri that shot.”

In addition to making 22 roster cuts, the Broncos placed saftey Shiloh Keo on the reserved/injured list. Keo will be suspended for the first two games of the season following a DUI arrest last June.

A full list of cuts can be seen below.


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