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The Denver Broncos are less than two weeks away from the opening bell of NFL free agency. Facing a mass exodus, especially on the defensive side of the ball, GM John Elway will have to work quickly to ensure at least a couple of homegrown free agents get re-signed. 

On Friday, 9NEWS' Mike Klis revealed two pending free agents who likely won't be getting such a phone call from Elway.

Klis reported last week that the Broncos are looking for a 'starter type' running back in free agency, where he floated names like Derrick Henry, Melvin Gordon, Kenyon Drake and Jordan Howard as potential targets. If true, it provides context on why the Broncos are letting Devontae Booker and Theo Riddick depart; neither are viewed as a 'starter type'.

There was a time, however, when the Broncos very much viewed Booker as such a RB. Drafted in the fourth round back in 2016, Booker would go on to lead the Broncos in rushing as a rookie, despite playing on a compromised knee. The team expected him to take that next step in his development the following season, but instead, Booker took a backseat to C.J. Anderson, and Jamaal Charles, the former of whom produced his one and only 1,000-yard rushing season in 2017. 

Fast forward to 2018 and the Broncos are on the hunt for new blood at running back, parting ways with Anderson and Charles. That led to the third-round investment in Royce Freeman and the decision to sign Phillip Lindsay as a college free agent. 

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Booker opened that summer as the presumptive starter but by the end of August, both rookies had surpassed him on the depth chart. Freeman would open the 2018 campaign as the Broncos' starter, a job which Lindsay would usurp down the stretch after Freeman suffered a high-ankle sprain. 

Since then, Booker has been relegated to third-string duty. It's a shame he didn't work out, because he's a solid route-runner and has extremely soft hands for a running back. But in the NFL where an RB's shelf life is uber-short, Booker received a two-year audition to put a stranglehold on the starting job and simply couldn't cut the mustard. 

It's worth noting that Booker's last two seasons, as Klis points out above, has seen him be much more productive and efficient from a yards-per-carry perspective. Too little too late, alas. 

As for Riddick, he was signed at the 11th hour last summer to serve as the Broncos' third-down pass-catching RB and perhaps even force Booker off the roster. Alas, in his debut preseason game, Riddick suffered a shoulder injury that would land him on season-ending injured reserve, though the team did flirt with the idea of activating him later in the year.

Denver gave Riddick $2.5 million for his troubles and time on injured reserve. Heading into 2020, you know what they say; once bitten, twice shy. 

It will be interesting to see how seriously the Broncos pursue a 'starter type' in free agency, or whether that Klis report was some kind of smokescreen. If the Broncos are indeed looking for that caliber of an RB, it implies the team doesn't think Freeman has what it takes. And maybe he doesn't. 2019 was extremely discouraging for Freeman. 

However, Lindsay is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and can be one of the most explosive RBs in the NFL. All it takes is stability upfront and the right play-caller. Only time will tell whether Lindsay and new OC Pat Shurmur will share a brain in 2020. 

My bet is that when it comes to the RB position, the Broncos sit out free agency and instead turn to the college ranks to find depth and a pass-catcher out of the backfield. I've been wrong before, but advanced analytics reveal that spending free-agent dollars on the RB position is extremely ill-advised. 

The Broncos would be better served by taking a cue from the L.A. Chargers and getting Lindsay extended on a multi-year deal, like the one fellow undrafted free-agent Austin Ekeler got on Friday, and look to the draft for depth. If money must be spent, find a second or third-wave RB in free agency who can catch passes out of the backfield. 

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen and @MileHighHuddle.