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Report: Broncos Cut Royce Freeman After Claiming Ex-Ravens RB Nate McCrary

Denver pink-slipped its former third-round pick.

In 2018, the Denver Broncos debuted an ultra-promising ground attack with then-rookies Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. The duo was supposed to be a long-term linchpin occupying the backfield.

Instead, three short years and one regime change later, both are former Broncos running backs.

On Wednesday, the team released Freeman in a corresponding move after claiming RB Nate McCrary off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens. McCrary will immediately revert to Denver's initial 53-man roster for the 2021 regular season.

And thus completes the cycle.

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The 71st overall pick of the 2018 draft, Freeman totaled 1,187 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 297 carries across 46 games (eight starts) in the Mile High City. It was all downhill for the ex-Oregon star following his rookie campaign, during which he sustained a high-ankle sprain and was usurped — permanently — by Lindsay, his more explosive counterpart.

Freeman regained some prominence this preseason as injuries ravaged the position, landing presumptive RB3 favorite Mike Boone (quad) on short-term injured reserve. The door cracked open for Freeman, who logged 127 all-purpose yards (69 rushing, 58 receiving) amid three exhibition games.

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But it did not stop the Broncos' ever-wandering eye nor prevent what was an inevitable pink slip.

McCrary — an undrafted rookie out of Saginaw Valley State, where he averaged 5.0 yards per carry and scored 28 career TDs — is built similarly to Freeman, standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 225 pounds. He plays faster than his predecessor, however, a trait that showed up on his pre-draft scouting profile.

"A well-built, small-school running back with good burst and change-of-direction quickness, McCrary needs to prove he can play with the big boys," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein noted. "He has good speed flowing to the perimeter, but his vision is average and he doesn't run with enough decisiveness, which works against his potential for becoming an outside-zone runner. The physical ability is a plus, but the tape isn't special considering his level of competition."

With Boone out a minimum of three games, McCrary will slide onto the depth chart behind veteran starter Melvin Gordon and second-round rookie Javonte Williams.

In related roster moves, the Broncos on Wednesday also claimed cornerback Mike Ford off waivers from the Detroit Lions and waived defensive lineman Jonathan Harris, per media reports.


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