Today's question about the Broncos comes from Dave Kamp in Las Vegas, Nev.:
Q: He's coming off a season-ending injury and the Broncos have two young, high draft choices already at running back. What does Willis McGahee gain by not participating in the OTAs?
A: Willis McGahee is a veteran player, headed into his 11th season, who simply prefers to work out in Miami in the offseason — much like he did last year during the Broncos' organized team activities (OTAs).
Personnel people around the league will consistently say players who played in collegiately at Miami (Fla.), are natives of Miami, or both, have traditionally been among the players who stay away the most from offseason workouts.
In short, the players like being in Miami in the winter/spring and prefer to work out at the University of Miami. It's a generalization, sure, but it is something personnel folks around the league have said over and over again.
And under the terms of the league's collective bargaining agreement, the Broncos' offseason conditioning program, including the on-field practices in the OTAs, is a voluntary affair. That was negotiated and there are plenty of rules in place about the time players can spend in the building, etc.
In some ways the coaches have only themselves to blame for all that by consistently ramping up the offseason commitments until it became one of the biggest topics of negotiation in the current labor deal.
Now, that said, most players would say even with the decrease in workouts and the amount of time on the field, the workouts are anything but voluntary. That if you really want to play, the expectation is that you have to be in the team's building in the offseason program.
But after McGahee's limited participation in the offseason program last season he still entered training camp, and then the regular season, as the Broncos starter. so, if you can play, in shape (and McGahee was) and they think you're the best option at the position, things work themselves out.
McGahee was hoping the Broncos would re-do his deal at least some after 1,199 yards rushing in 2011, but the Broncos held fast and didn't tweak his original four-year contract that still has two years remaining on it. The deal was worth $9.5 million overall, including a $2 million signing bonus.
McGahee, who will turn 32 this season, is scheduled to earn a $2.5 million base salary this season and a $2 million base salary in 2014.
McGahee also suffered a torn medial collateral ligament and compression fracture of his right knee early in the second quarter of the Broncos' 30-23 victory over the San Diego Chargers this past season. He went on injured reserve at that point, but the Broncos left open the possibility he could return to the AFC Championship Game.
And as much as McGahee lobbied the coaches and training staff — and he lobbied plenty — to return to practice in the days before the divisional-round loss to the Ravens, the Broncos didn't think he was physically ready to return at that point and he was not activated.
McGahee has had spotty attendance in the Broncos conditioning workouts this year and has not attended the first set of OTA workouts over the last two weeks. The Broncos have four OTA workouts — all voluntary — this week as well, but McGahee is not expected at this point.
Ronnie Hillman has lined up with the starters in McGahee's absence.
If McGahee does not attend the Broncos mandatory minicamp June 11-13 - the only portion of the offseason work that is mandatory - he can be fined at that point. However, McGahee's agent has said McGahee is simply following his usual workout schedule and that he isn't trying to send any message about his contract, etc.
He is expected to be in the team's Dove Valley complex for mandatory minicamp — players formally report for that on June 10. If he doesn't show then, it probably becomes an issue for the team at that point.
Even with his experience McGahee will certainly be behind in terms of learning offensive coordinator Adam Gase's tweaks to the playbook and he has allowed players like Hillman and rookie Montee Ball to use the time to show what they can do as younger, and financially cheaper in terms of the salary cap, options at the position.
Quarterback Peyton Manning even hinted at such this past week when he said of working extra with Ball following a practice;
"I have taken Montee after practice each day and just kind of going through plays, going through games, getting him comfortable hearing audibles at the line of scrimmage. Because we are going to count on him in a big way this year. He's a rookie, but coach (John) Fox is not going to bring him along slowly. We are going to put him in there and make him a contributor this year."
If McGahee does come to the Broncos minicamp, as expected, later this month, it will be intriguing to see how the Broncos line him up and where he fits in the pecking order at that point. But given his age and the fact the Broncos have used third- and second-round picks on running backs in the consecutive drafts, it is a calculated risk on his part.