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Broncos bid farewell to more Super Bowl 50 champions in 2019 offseason

Take a look back at some of linebacker Brandon Marshall's best moments, both on the field and in the community.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With every passing offseason since 2015, a handful of Super Bowl 50 champions have moved on to new NFL destinations, or sometimes to retirement, and this year has been no different. With Brandon Marshall signing with Oakland on Thursday, just six players who appeared in that game remain in Denver: Von Miller, Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Harris Jr., Derek Wolfe, Brandon McManus and Todd Davis.

In addition to Marshall, center Matt Paradis (Carolina), cornerback Bradley Roby (Houston), outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (Tampa Bay) and Max Garcia (Arizona) have also found new homes in free agency. Outside linebacker Shane Ray is also currently a free agent, and the Broncos also released safety Darian Stewart earlier this month.

Though they are no longer Broncos, it is worth remembering the contributions each of them had on the team, for it is difficult, if not impossible, to envision Denver winning the franchise's third Lombardi Trophy without their efforts.

Marshall, the first arrival of this bunch, carved out a memorable path. His first 15 months in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars had left him doubting his future in football, as they bounced him from their active roster, their practice squad and the waiver wire six times. 

After being waived just before the 2013 season, Marshall had his choice of signing with the Broncos' or the Raiders' practice squads, or rejoining Jacksonville's. Joining Oakland could have brought a quicker path to an active roster, but the Broncos had an established winning culture. 

The decision would change his life. 

In his first year as a Bronco, Marshall became a star on the team's practice squad, earning the trust and respect of Denver's coaches and its finest players, including Peyton Manning. By the end of the 2013 season, Marshall had been promoted to the active roster, though he mostly played special teams.

In 2014, Marshall broke out, leading the Broncos in tackles with 113 in 14 games, and he added nine passes defensed, an interception, two forced fumbles and two sacks. But Marshall's 2015 season was arguably his finest, as he "quarterbacked" one of the most dominant defenses in recent memory and provided the reliability and sure tackling to hold the center of the defense equally well against the run and pass.

Marshall's other most lasting impact, though, may have been in the community. Even before he famously kneeled to protest social injustice, Marshall was an active participant in community initiatives in Denver. Early in his stint with the Broncos, back in 2014, he led a clothing drive to help support survivors of domestic violence.

But it was after his protest during the 2016 season when he maximized his efforts. He launched his own charity, the Williams-Marshall Cares Program, which aims to help adolescents become leaders in their communities through the values of faith, hard work, dedication, perseverance, integrity, honesty and respect. In 2018, he expanded his work with a new campaign, called the FEEL (Feed and Educate to Empower Leaders) Movement, which created and distributed packages to select families in his hometown of North Las Vegas, Nevada, and donated $50,000 to three Denver non-profit organizations. In addition to all that, he also worked closely with the Denver Police Department to gain further understanding of the officers' duties and the challenges they face.

Bradley Roby made an impact on the Broncos as soon as he stepped on the field in 2014. With Chris Harris Jr. returning from a torn ACL, the first-round pick was thrust into a major role in the season opener against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Roby responded well, closing out the Colts' comeback bid by breaking up a fourth-down pass intended for Reggie Wayne.

He would continue to make those kinds of plays often, especially as part of the "No-Fly Zone" when the Broncos' secondary emerged as the NFL's top pass defense in 2015.

He, along with Marshall, delivered one of the most memorable plays of the Super Bowl season, as the Chiefs looked to run out the remaining 36 seconds of regulation to send the "Thursday Night Football" duel to overtime. But instead of taking a knee,Kansas City elected to hand the ball off to Jamaal Charles on a draw, perhaps hoping to catch the defense off balance. But Marshall read the play perfectly, sidestepping a block from the center to punch the ball out of Charles' grasp. It bounced through the hands and legs of a few players before being scooped up by Roby, who swiftly sprinted into the end zone for the winning points.

Without that win, the Broncos may not have won the division and almost certainly would not have had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. During Denver's first postseason game of their run to Super Bowl 50, Roby again made a crucial play. The Steelers, up one point early in the fourth quarter, had the ball at the Denver 34-yard line and looked to push their lead to eight points. Roby, though, blasted Fitzgerald Toussaint and forced a fumble. DeMarcus Ware recovered for the Broncos, and the team scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. The Broncos would not trail again on their path to a Super Bowl 50 win.

Roby was a ballhawk in his time in Denver, racking up 60 passes defensed over his five seasons, including seven interceptions and two pick-sixes. That extended to Super Bowl 50, too, when Roby deflected three passes.

From 2015 until about midway through the 2018 season when he suffered a fractured fibula, Matt Paradis was the Broncos' iron man. He started 60 consecutive games, including the playoffs, and did so at a high level.

After spending his rookie season on the practice squad, Paradis became a reliable member of the offensive line, helping provide the pass protection and push in the trenches that made the offense effective as it helped drive the Broncos to a Super Bowl.

After Peyton Manning retired, Paradis provided the same dependability in the years that followed. In fact, Paradis played every offensive snap for the Broncos for three consecutive seasons, from 2015 through 2018, even though he missed much of the 2017 offseason recovering from hip surgery. For that effort, his teammates awarded him the team's Ed Block Courage Award.

During this span, Barrett and Ray formed an important reserve pass-rushing duo for Denver. When the team was at its most healthy, it could rely on those two to provide an effective pass rush as the Broncos rested Von Miller or DeMarcus Ware. And when a back injury to Ware sidelined him for five games that season, Barrett and Ray replaced his reps effectively, ensuring the Broncos' outstanding defense could remain strong.

Like Ray, Max Garcia was a rookie in 2015, stepping into a bigger role than is sometimes expected for players that young. The Broncos had formed a team stacked with veteran talent, from Peyton Manning to Ware, to Evan Mathis and T.J. Ward. But it also needed young players capable of stepping into vital roles when injuries occurred. Like Ray, Garcia filled it admirably, starting five of the last six games of the season in place of Mathis, who was battling an ankle injury. With wins in four of those five games he started, the Broncos earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs — which would be an essential advantage as they marched to the Super Bowl.

As each of these former Broncos continue their careers in new homes, Broncos fans will always be able to look back fondly on the memories each of these players made in Denver as Super Bowl 50 champions.

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