Denver Broncos: Historical look at 5 times team brought in a big-name RB

With the recent signing of running back Melvin Gordon, the Denver Broncos are trying to inject a brand new element into their running game.

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CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 11: Willis McGahee #23 of the Denver Broncos runs against the Carolina Panthers during play at Bank of America Stadium on November 11, 2012, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Broncos won 36-14. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Broncos have long been one of the league's best teams in finding and developing their own running backs. The list of success stories goes on and on.

Of course, Terrell Davis is by far the biggest success story at running back in team history, going from a sixth-round pick to one of the best running backs in league history. But there have been many more.

Floyd Little was one of the best running backs of his time and eventually was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The team used a first-round pick in the Supplemental Draft to select Bobby Humphrey in 1989. Humphrey had a short career with the team, but in 1989 and 1990, he ran for 2,353 yards and was one of the league's most potent backs.

In later years, relatively unknown players Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson followed in the footsteps of Davis. Shortly thereafter, Clinton Portis became one of the league's most dynamic runners.

Even guys like Sammy Winder, Tatum Bell and C.J. Anderson had some solid seasons for the team.

Most recently, Phillip Lindsay, a hometown hero as it was, has gone from an undrafted free agent to become the first undrafted player in league history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He was also the first undrafted player to be selected to the Pro Bowl in their rookie year.

With the success of Lindsay, why would the Broncos be looking to add a player like Gordon? Clearly, because he can give the offense something it hasn't had in quite some time and in combination with Lindsay, could help the Broncos have potentially the best combination at running back in the NFL.

Will all of that work out? Time will tell.

Here are five other instances in which the Broncos looked outside the organization for a top-flight running back, looking to pump new life into their rushing attack.

Tony Dorsett

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NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 15: Tony Dorsett #33 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XII on January 15, 1978, at the Louisiana Super Dome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl 27-10. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

It's often forgotten that Tony Dorsett played for the Broncos and he was only with the team for one season.

In the summer of 1988, Broncos head coach Dan Reeves, who was quite familiar with Dorsett, helped persuade the team to trade for Dorsett to pair in the backfield with Winder. Reeves was convinced that even at 34 years old at the time, Dorsett still had something to offer.

Coming off a stinging loss to the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII, the team was looking for a player to help get them over the top. At that time, the Broncos had lost back-to-back Super Bowls.

Dorsett ranked No. 2 on the NFL's all-time rushing list at that time and following the retirement of Walter Payton, was the league's active leader.

He wasn't necessarily bad for the Broncos, but he wasn't the same player that became a legend with the Dallas Cowboys. He was the kind of player you would have expected to get in exchange for so little (the Broncos only had to give up a single draft pick).

Dorsett ran for 703 yards and five touchdowns that season but averaged less than four yards per carry.

Dorsett was a mediocre running back on a mediocre 1988 Broncos team that finished 8-8. Between 1986 and 1989, the '88 team was the only one that didn't go to the Super Bowl.

From 1983-87, Winder averaged 225 carries per season. In 1988, he only had 149 while Dorsett received 181.

This is not to say that the trade for Dorsett cost the Broncos a chance at the playoffs and another Super Bowl appearance, but his acquisition certainly did not produce the desired effect.

Overall result: Didn't work out

3 of 6

Gaston Green


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ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 9: Gaston Green #30 of the Los Angeles Rams carries the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during an NFL football game on October 9, 1988, at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Green played for the Rams from 1988-890. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

When Gaston Green was chosen with the No. 14 overall pick of the 1988 NFL draft out of UCLA by the Los Angeles Rams, it seemed like a match made in heaven.

Green left the school as the all-time leading rusher in Bruins history and had also set the school record for touchdown runs with 37. A native of Los Angeles, Green likely could not have envisioned a more perfect scenario than to be drafted by the Rams.

But things just did not work out there.

Head coach John Robinson preferred to give much more work to the likes of Cleveland Gary and Robert Delpino (who would also go on to join the Broncos) over Green. The first-round pick Green just never seemed to mesh with what the Rams were trying to do.

In 31 games with the Rams, Green carried the ball just 129 times for 451 yards.

In April 1991, the Rams, who clearly felt Green was a bust, traded the running back to the Broncos along with a fourth-round pick in that year's draft in exchange for offensive tackle Gerald Perry and a twelfth-round pick from the Broncos.

The Broncos were looking for a replacement for Humphrey, who decided to hold out for more money following the 1990 season. That holdout lasted well into the season and by the time he returned, Green had taken his job.

Green was quite effective in Denver, rushing for 1,037 yards in 1991. That season, he finished sixth in the league in rushing yards and Thurman Thomas was the only back in the AFC who had more than Green.

Green joined Thomas and Marion Butts on the AFC Pro Bowl roster that season after helping the Broncos reach the AFC Championship Game.

Green only played two seasons in Denver, but that 1991 season was special and though easily forgotten nearly 30 years later, it was one of the better seasons a running back had posted in Denver to that point.

Overall result: Worked out

4 of 6

Garrison Hearst

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SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 15: Garrison Hearst #20 of the San Francisco 49ers runs against John Mobley #51 of the Denver Broncos during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on September 15, 2002, in San Francisco, California. The Broncos defeated the 49ers 24-14. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The Broncos decided to take a shot on another aging running back in 2004, bringing in Garrison Hearst after a successful stint with the San Francisco 49ers.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 1993 draft, Hearst was a star at Georgia in college, finishing third overall in the 1992 Heisman Trophy voting. The Arizona Cardinals drafted him but after three seasons there, he was a surprise cut in training camp.

He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals and played there one season before being released. The 49ers then took a shot on him and he posted two fantastic seasons there in 1997 and 1998.

He finished third in the NFL with 1,570 yards rushing in 1998. But the following year, he developed a serious condition known as Avascular Necrosis, a condition where the talus bone in the foot basically dies.

Hearst worked hard to get back and after two years out of football, he returned to the field in 2001 and rushed for 1,206 yards, leading to him being named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He would played two more seasons for the 49ers before being released following the 2003 campaign.

That's when the Broncos decided to kick the tires on him but he was only used sparingly in the 2004 season, carrying the ball just 20 times and scoring one touchdown. His season that year ended with him on injured reserve with a broken hand.

The Broncos chose not to bring him back in 2005.

The Broncos hoped they were getting the guy who revived his career in San Francisco and became a real force with that team, but he wasn't even a useful role player with the Broncos as his best days were clearly behind him.

Overall result: Didn't work out

5 of 6

Travis Henry

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OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 2: Travis Henry #20 of the Denver Broncos scores a touchdown in the first half against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at McAfee Coliseum December 2, 2007, in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

This is definitely a sad story of what could have been.

Travis Henry was drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft by the Buffalo Bills after a strong college career at Tennessee. He ran for over 1,400 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in 2002 but the Bills still chose to select Willis McGahee in the first round of the 2003 draft.

Henry responded by rushing for over 1,300 yards and 10 more touchdowns the following season but in 2004, an injury opened the door for McGahee to take the field and take Henry's job. Refusing to be a backup, Henry was dealt to the Tennessee Titans.

But in Tennessee, Henry began as the backup to Chris Brown and only gained 335 yards on 88 carries in 2005. It seemed as though Henry's career was beginning to slow down until he exploded for 1,211 yards in 2006.

That offseason, he was cut by the Titans in a cost-cutting move to save the team money. The Broncos wasted no time, swooping in and signing Henry to a five-year, $22.5 million contract.

It certainly looked like a good move as Henry rushed for 433 yards in the first four games of the 2007 season, the most in the league. But injuries slowed him down and forced him to miss a good portion of the rest of the season. He ran for just 258 yards the rest of that year.

But what slowed him down even more were accusations of a failed drug test for marijuana use and though Henry eventually beat that charge and pending suspension, the Broncos chose to release him following that season due to concerns surrounding the commitment to the team.

What started out so promising ended in very disappointing fashion and Henry would never play in the league again, running into more issues with drugs not long thereafter.

Overall result: Didn't work out

6 of 6

Willis McGahee

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CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 11: Willis McGahee #23 of the Denver Broncos runs with the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the game at Bank of America Stadium on November 11, 2012, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Broncos won 36-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

After two four-year stints with the Bills and Baltimore Ravens, McGahee signed a four-year deal with the Broncos prior to the start of the 2011 season. Despite a serious injury in college that many felt was career-threatening, McGahee had become one of the toughest, most durable runners in football.

He came to Denver to be in a complementary role to Knowshon Moreno, but Moreno went down with an injury in the 2011 season opener. McGahee ran for 1,199 yards that season, the third-most in his career and that led to him being selected to his second appearance in the Pro Bowl.

The following season, the Broncos brought in Peyton Manning to replace Tim Tebow and the team was not as dependent on the running game. McGahee had 82 less carries than he did in 2011 but still ran for 731 yards on the season.

He was released that offseason and then signed by the Cleveland Browns, who he played with for one season before calling it a career. Overall, McGahee had a solid body of work in the NFL.

He probably would have lied to finish his career with the Broncos but the team and its offense moved in a different direction following his stellar 2011 season. Still, the Broncos likely were thrilled with what they received from McGahee, who was just short of 30 years old when the team signed him.

Overall result: Worked out