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Mason's Mailbag: Where the running backs stand, and the lack of Broncos in the Hall of Fame

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As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.*

Cheers from a lifelong Bronco fan in Georgia!

Regarding the running back depth chart, the common assumption is that C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman, Devontae Booker and Andy Janovich would be the four on the active roster if healthy (and the season started today). Obviously many things could change in camp (or if five make the active roster), but that leaves Kapri Bibbs and Juwan Thompson on the roster bubble yet again. Does either have practice squad eligibility left, or is this a make-or-break preseason? Any news or updates on them; we don't always hear as much about the guys in their position.

-- Jon Carter

Bibbs is eligible for the practice squad only if the Broncos always carry 53 players on their primary roster; if they do, he can be on the practice squad for a third season. Thompson is eligible on the exception that provides a maximum of two spots for players who do not have more than two accrued seasons, which Thompson has.

S

o, it's not necessarily make-or-break for both, but realistically, it is. The third training camp is typically when a player must take a step forward or risk being replaced by a younger prospect. To that end, Thompson is working to show his versatility by taking on fullback responsibilities in addition to his abilities at tailback and on special teams.

But Thompson has already shown that he can be a helpful component to a team in a regular season. Bibbs hasn't made that jump yet. Every repetition matters, even the ones without pads in May and June.

"What is Kapri? Year Three? I really try to grab guys like that and tell them, 'You know what? They're not going to let you hang out and be on the practice squad and be a fourth[-year] guy. They don't let you do that," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said last week. "It's time to make a jump.'"

"I think we've always thought he has some great run skills," added Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison. "He's pretty natural with the ball. He caught the ball well. It's just figuring the whole thing out.

"He practices hard. He looked like he had a burst. He just looks like he knows what's going on a little bit better. Last year, it was his first year doing what our offense was. That was a transition year for everybody, not just Kapri. Again, we're two days into it."

And as we saw last year, no spots are guaranteed. At this point in the spring, few had Montee Ball not making the roster, but he didn't crack the 53 and is now out of football and making headlines for the wrong reasons.

So there is time for movement. Don't discount Cyrus Gray, either; he had a good week of practice and has shown a nice burst.

@MaseDenver #askmase why are drafted players just signing their contracts? Could a team back out from signing them? Can the player? — Alberto Ibarra (@betoibarramty) May 22, 2016

A team can back out from signing a draft pick if it chooses. However, no team is going to do that for reasons tied to on-field performance or injuries; that would only happen for some kind of criminal malfeasance.

Players have refused to sign with the team that drafted them, most notably Bo Jackson, the No. 1 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986. In that case, the player goes back into the draft pool the following year, which allowed the then-Los Angeles Raiders to select him in 1987.

Quarterback Craig Erickson had a similar situation with the Eagles in 1991; unhappy with Philadelphia's contract offer, he went back into the pool for 1992, when he was selected by the Bucs.

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Based on the success of the Broncos franchise and the number of appearances in the Super Bowl (winning three), why aren't there more Broncos in the Hall of Fame???**

-- Richard Gorden

Well, the third Super Bowl is irrelevant regarding the Hall of Fame, because no one from that roster is eligible yet.

But there is no clear answer. It's not due to the arguments made in the room; Denver has had persuasive, knowledgeable advocates, including its representative today, ESPN's Jeff Legwold.

Some cite East Coast bias, particularly in the case of Harry Carson being in the Hall of Fame and Randy Gradishar being out of its ranks.

But if it were all about that perceived bias, then the Kansas City Chiefs would not have 13 men in the Hall (and 17 total) for their accomplishments as Chiefs.

Still, Gradishar's absence is the most glaring, along with that of Louis Wright, a lockdown cornerback equal to the greats like Mel Blount of his day.

Gradishar's tackle totals have been questioned by pundits; he is credited by the Broncos with an astonishing 2,049 tackles -- an average of 14 a game for 10 seasons. But he countered that three years ago with this statement:

"All these excuses came up, and it's like, 'Well, you're telling me you don't believe the tackles, so you're telling me that Joe Collier lied and the defensive staff lied?'"

The notion that Gradishar's career is too brief to merit Hall consideration is also farcical.

"Gale Sayers played nine [seasons]. Dick Butkus played nine. Did you ask them?" he said in 2013. "Some of those things that I've heard back are just ridiculous. It's like saying, 'Who's representing who?' It's that committee telling you -- well, they don't believe you had 2,000 tackles."

Beyond Gradishar and Wright, there are other compelling cases.

Dan Reeves is the only head coach to take four teams to Super Bowls and not be in the Hall of Fame. Bud Grant and Marv Levy also lost four Super Bowls and are in. Reeves got two different franchises to Super Bowls to get his foursome, and he remains out and waiting for his moment. This shows a clear double standard that is keeping a deserved Bronco out of Canton.

Steve Atwater and John Lynch were great players at a position that is woefully underrepresented, particularly from the last 35 years. Both were finalists last year. Both should have already been in the Hall.

Terrell Davis has momentum, but his wait should not have endured this long. He's the only player in NFL history with a league MVP, a Super Bowl MVP and a 2,000-yard season. He shares the league record for 100-yard rushing games in the playoffs with Emmitt Smith -- and it took Smith 17 games to rack up as many 100-yard days as Davis had in just eight games.

I can't tell you the reasons, because I don't know. I can only guess.

Maybe it's regional bias.

Maybe it's the misguided perceptions that the Orange Crush Broncos were a one-year wonder and that the John Elway-era Broncos were a one-man team.

Maybe some of the voters had bad experiences connecting at Stapleton Airport back in the day and are using their votes to exact revenge.

Regardless, it will get better. Peyton Manning and Champ Bailey are locks. Brian Dawkins, even though he was only a three-year Bronco, should eventually be enshrined. Pat Bowlen would seem to have a good shot at making it in the recently-created contributors category.

But their inductions won't make up for the deserving Broncos who are not in the Hall.

It's time for the Selection Committee to get this right.

You think Shaq Barrett will get some looks at LB to replace Danny Trevathan?

-- Anthony Neville

No. Barrett plays a different position at outside linebacker.

Trevathan played the weakside inside spot, which will now go to Brandon Marshall. Marshall's vacated strongside position will be determined by a competition that includes young players such as Todd Davis, Corey Nelson and 2015 practice-squad player Zaire Anderson.


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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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