Broncos release ex-starter Mike Bell |

Broncos release ex-starter Mike Bell

Lee Rasizer
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Barry Gutierrez/Rocky Mountain News

DENVER, Colorado ” Mike Bell finally has gone from the doghouse to the outhouse.

The one-time Denver Broncos starting running back, whose playing time diminished last season after a switch to fullback, was released Monday as the club began making room for rookie signings.

Denver inked fourth-round pick Kory Lichtensteiger, a center from Bowling Green, to a four-year, $2.19 million deal that includes a $484,250 signing bonus.

The team also was closing in on terms with the second of their fourth-round selections, Kent State cornerback Jack Williams. And with 80-man roster restrictions in place, Denver had to make some moves, since unsigned rookies were not counted toward the roster limit.

Rookie kicker Garrett Hartley was released along with Bell.

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The Broncos now have seven of nine draft picks under contract leading up to Thursday’s reporting date to training camp, with first-round pick Ryan Clady (Boise State) and second-round wideout Eddie Royal (Virginia Tech) the exceptions.

Bell, 24, wasn’t drafted out of Arizona in 2006 but produced like a first-day selection. He ran for 677 yards and scored eight touchdowns, but after a promising start to the ’07 preseason, hurt his shoulder, ended up getting passed by Selvin Young on the depth chart and then was switched to fullback. He appeared in just five games at his new position and notched only six overall carries.

After a critical fumble on his lone rushing attempt in a Nov. 25 loss at Chicago, Bell was declared inactive for the remainder of the season and any trade value was diminished.

“He put himself on the map with the Denver Broncos, and if not for them, wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show what he’s capable of in this league,” said Josh Luchs, Bell’s co-agent along with Steve Feldman. “Whether it’s today, tomorrow or a week from now, we feel Mike will be on a team that gives him the chance to play the position he wants to play. But it’s a rough time now.”

The timing, three days before camp starts, could hinder Bell. There’s also a glut of free-agent running backs still unsigned.

“He’s a clean prospect without a lot of tread on his tires, and he’s been productive in the not so distant past,” Luchs added. “So I think he has value.”

Hartley’s departure leaves Matt Prater as the lone player at the position in wake of veteran Jason Elam’s departure in free agency. Denver still could add a veteran leg if Prater falters during camp, but the team has been happy with his off-season showings to date.

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