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Following LB Todd Davis's release, Broncos' linebackers stare down opportunity

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos released veteran linebacker Todd Davis on Friday after "a lot of little things that added up," Head Coach Vic Fangio said after the team's practice.

Over the last week, the Broncos signed veteran linebacker Mark Barron and agreed to trade for linebacker Austin Calitro.

"Unfortunately, we released Todd," Fangio said. "I'm going to miss Todd. Todd was a great player here for many years. [I'm] wishing him nothing but the best. We're going to miss him."

Davis, who led the team in tackles in three of the last four seasons, spent six seasons in Denver and was a starter from 2016-19.

"He's been a great leader ever since I got here," said Josey Jewell, who made a handful of starts alongside Davis over the last two seasons. "He was like a brotherly figure to me, a father figure. He led me along in the early years, that first season especially. Really just showing me the ropes, helping me with defense and just teaching me — teaching me how to act. It was all that kind of stuff. He's a great player and a great leader. Now, I have the chance to follow in his shoes and play, and I'm looking forward to being able to play. I loved him and everything he stood for."

Without Davis in Denver, Jewell should have a chance to regain a starting role. He started nine games as a rookie and was a member of the first-team defense for the first four weeks of 2019 before a hamstring injury knocked him out of the lineup.

Jewell has posted 96 tackles, five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his young career.

Alexander Johnson replaced Jewell for the team's Week 5 game last season and did not relinquish his hold on the position. Now, the two could play alongside each other.

"I think we just have a lot of great communication out there," Jewell said of he and Johnson's chemistry. "When Todd was out there, it was great communication too, but I think we vibe well together out there and we talk. We talk about pre-snap reads, possible play calls and possible plays the offense will run. I think we complement each other pretty well out there, being able to communicate and understand what kind of plays are going to come at us."

The Broncos, though, now have other options at linebacker, as well. Barron, the seventh-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, is a former safety who has started 102 games, tallied nine interceptions, 42 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 12 sacks, 48 tackles for loss and 710 tackles during his career. He could contribute on passing downs for the Broncos.

The team also added Calitro, who has started nine games in two seasons, recorded 1.5 sacks and 85 total tackles. He has also been a key special teams player for both Seattle and Jacksonville.

"Calitro is a guy that we've liked," Fangio said. "Our personnel people have liked him in the past. He became available because Cincinnati needed a defensive lineman, so we made a trade there. Our personnel people have had feelings for him in the past, and we acquired him."

The Broncos' inside linebacking corps will come into focus as the Broncos trim their roster to 53 players by 2 p.m. MT on Saturday, but Davis will not be easily replaced.

"We appreciate all Todd did for the Broncos over his six seasons in Denver," John Elway said Friday. "Todd was a member of our Super Bowl 50 team who grew into a leader and team captain as a very reliable and productive linebacker. We thank Todd for being such a positive presence on the Broncos, and we wish him and his family all the best."

THE VALUE OF TRAINING CAMP

When the Broncos began their full-speed training camp practices on Aug. 14, Fangio wasn't quite sure how much his team could accomplish during a shortened preseason. As the Broncos break camp, though, he seems encouraged about the team's progress.

"As far as where I hoped to be and all that, with the new setup and everything I really didn't know where we'd be, to be honest with you," Fangio said. "I think we're ready to go. I think we're ready to have a real week of preparation, getting ready for a game. I like where we're at, but time will tell."

In particular, the team's offense may have gained some momentum over the final week of practice after it was sluggish for a few days midway through camp.

"I think we had a good week of practice prior to coming here tonight," Fangio said about the offense. "I thought we had a good night here. I'm cautiously optimistic about our run game, our ability with Drew [Lock] throwing the ball. Again, with no true live action in preseason games it remains to be seen. I like where we're at. I like our group. I like our players. I'm very hopeful."

WAITING TO ANNOUNCE

Head Coach Vic Fangio continued to hold his cards close to the vest Friday, as he declined to name a starter at the center position. Lloyd Cushenberry III, Austin Schlottmann and Patrick Morris have competed for the role during training camp, though Fangio said this week that Cushenberry had taken the majority of the reps as of late.

"We'll probably wait until Tuesday to announce that, if not sooner," said Fangio on announcing a starter.

He also declined to reveal who would serve as the team's third cornerback.

"We'll see how [Michael] Ojemudia did tonight," Fangio said. "We'll see how Davontae [Harris] did, [De'Vante] Bausby did, Duke [Dawson Jr.] did. We'll make a decision by next Tuesday which way we're going to go the first week."

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