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Royal could leave in free agency

The Sports Xchange

--Since Eddie Royal finished 2011 with career lows in receptions and yardage, and sits behind 2010 draftees Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the Broncos' receiving pecking order, it would come as no surprise if he elects to leave via unrestricted free agency.

If Royal departs, the Broncos lack experienced options beyond Thomas, Decker and Matt Willis, who combined for 94 receptions in 2011 -- but just 29 in all other seasons. To that end, the Broncos signed Jason Hill, a five-year veteran who spent the last two seasons with the Jaguars after three years with the 49ers.

Hill played for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville. He is the second person with Jaguars connections to join the Broncos since Del Rio was hired as defensive coordinator; strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson joined the Broncos after holding the same position in Jacksonville the last three seasons.

In 10 starts for the Jaguars last season, Hill established career highs in touchdowns (three) and receiving yardage (367) on 25 receptions. However, his season ended early, as the Jaguars waived him Nov. 30 -- one day after Del Rio was fired.

--John Fox didn't actively pursue players he coached with the Carolina Panthers upon taking the Broncos' reins last year, but did bring one aboard Feb. 15 by signing guard C.J. Davis.

With backup guards Russ Hochstein and Manny Ramirez both due to become unrestricted free agents, Davis could be in position to compete for one of the backup slots behind starters Chris Kuper and Zane Beadles.

--Quarterback Tim Tebow spent the early part of the week in Los Angeles, receiving some instruction from UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

"He just came out here to throw and work on a few things and see if we can just become a little more efficient in what he's doing," Mazzone told "Throwing motion, footwork, everything I work on with all my quarterbacks."

Broncos executive vice president John Elway asserted in January that there isn't much that can be done to alter a quarterback's release, and the work has to come in other areas.

"I think a release is pretty much natural. You're not going to change a release a whole lot," Elway said. "If you pick up a dirt clod when you're young and how you throw that is naturally how you do that.

"(There are) little minor tweaks you can put to that, but there's not a whole lot when it comes down to release."

--Kicker Matt Prater is due to become an unrestricted free agent next month, but the Broncos might not let him get to that point, even if they can't work out a long-term deal.

The Broncos could opt to use the franchise tag on Prater -- which would be a more budget-friendly one than franchising a player at another position.

The Broncos haven't designated a franchise player in a decade. Coincidentally, their last franchise player was also a placekicker -- Jason Elam, who was franchised in 2002 and signed a five-year contract 12 months later after some acrimonious negotiations.

Prater was arguably as responsible for the Broncos' spate of comeback wins as Tim Tebow. He hit game-ending, game-winning field goals in half of their eight regular-season wins in 2011, with two of them coming from beyond 50 yards.

"I hope he comes back to play. But if he doesn't, he's definitely a hero to a lot of others. He's my hero." -- DE Jason Hunter, on the possibility of Brian Dawkins retiring because of a neck injury.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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