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Broncos had busy offseason despite lockout

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Monday, July 25 2011 5:15 p.m. MDT

Jon Elway, executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos, arrives for a meeting Friday, July 22, 2011, in Atlanta. NFL general managers and other team executives are meeting to discuss specifics of the labor agreement approved by owners and make plans for the season while awaiting the players' vote on the deal.

John Amis, Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Even with the NFL on hiatus, several teams made plenty of noise in the offseason. Few were as loud as the Denver Broncos.

Hall of Famer John Elway returned to restore respectability to a franchise tarnished by scandal and his former tight end, Shannon Sharpe, was elected for enshrinement.

An enormously popular but largely unproven 23-year-old quarterback penned his autobiography. Last year's top draft pick suffered a serious injury working out. Another player was stabbed by his girlfriend.

The Broncos' busy offseason began with a front office shake-up that brought back Elway, who empowered general manager Brian Xanders and hired coach John Fox, who will finally get to see his players in action Thursday.

Fox took the Panthers to the Super Bowl in his second season after taking over a 1-15 team in 2003, and the Broncos would love a similarly quick turnaround from their 4-12 debacle, the worst in franchise history.

The team's new leadership shored up the league's worst defense by re-signing star cornerback Champ Bailey and selected Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller with the second overall pick in the draft.

Miller would have been in line for more than $70 million over five years under the old labor agreement, but with the new rules on rookie salaries he'll make about $50 million less over four years.

"It's safe to say that was timely," team president Joe Ellis said Monday. "But Von Miller's going to have a good career in this league and he's going to have a lucrative career, as well. It's just that there's some shifting of how you earn that money."

Fox proclaimed upon his arrival that the wide receiver corps led by Pro Bowler Brandon Lloyd was the area that needed the least attention during the team's massive makeover.

That quickly changed when Eddie Royal underwent a surprise hip operation and Demaryius Thomas, last year's top draft pick, suffered a torn Achilles' tendon working out in Atlanta.

Tim Tebow's autobiography hit shelves after he started three games as a rookie and has no guarantee he'll start ahead of Kyle Orton this season, although Orton is due more than $8 million in 2011 and might prove more valuable on the trade market.

"Game on," Tebow wrote on Twitter as the lockout came to an end Monday.

Several Broncos got together for workouts during the interlude but they couldn't really hold what amounted to coachless minicamps like some teams because Denver is one of eight teams with new coaches.

So, they'll have a crash course in their new systems this week.

Plenty should stay the same with Mike McCoy sticking around as offensive coordinator, but Dennis Allen comes aboard with the mandate to reinstall the 4-3 defensive scheme after former coach Josh McDaniels employed the 3-4 system during his short stint in Denver that ended with a videotaping scandal.

Defensive tackle tops the Broncos' wish list in the frenzied free agency period.

Even with the restoration under way, the team's image took some more hits in the offseason.

Running back Laurence Maroney was arrested in St. Louis on drugs and weapons allegations in January and defensive end Jason Hunter was stabbed by his girlfriend in April. Hunter has recovered from his wounds; Maroney won't be back.

Last week, an arrest affidavit unsealed seven months after his arrest showed that cornerback Perrish Cox was linked by DNA to an alleged sexual assault victim.

"We've got to let the legal process run its course," Ellis said. "Obviously, the allegations are extremely serious. We take them seriously. That's as much as I'll say right now. There will be more on that later, I'm sure."

Arnie Stapleton can be reached at http://twitter.com/arniestapleon

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