Denver Broncos: Royce Freeman the latest in team’s failed running backs

The Royce Freeman chapter in Denver Broncos history has come to a quiet end as the former third-round running back was waived the day after initially making the 53-man roster.

The Broncos waived Royce Freeman and defensive lineman Jonathan Harris when the team put in waiver claims for cornerback Mike Ford and running back Nate McCrary.

For Freeman, it brings a disappointing end to a once very promising start with the Broncos, who selected him with the No. 71 overall pick of the 2018 draft. In three seasons with the team, Freeman rushed for 1,187 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 69 passes and added a touchdown through the air.

This after a solid career running for the Oregon Ducks in college.

You can add Freeman to a list that includes the likes of Devontae Booker, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. All of those players were drafted in the fourth round or higher and all of them looked like great fits with the Broncos. None of them achieved much success.

In addition, the team had Phillip Lindsay, an undrafted free agent who excelled with the team who the organization basically gave up on. Detractors of Lindsay point to his physical stature, but it hasn’t hindered him at any level of his playing career thus far.

So what happened with Freeman? Was he just not a good fit? Did he not work hard enough?

Freeman’s carries went down drastically last season when Pat Shurmur was brought aboard as the offensive coordinator. He carried the ball 132 times as a rookie and 130 the following year in 2019. Last season, that number went down to just 35.

Clearly, Freeman fell out of favor, much like Lindsay, and will now have to look to continue his playing career elsewhere.

How will Javonte Williams do in Denver?

How does this all impact Javonte Williams, the bruising running back who the team used a second-round pick on this past draft? Of course, we are going to look at that as positively as possible and say things like he is a great fit in this offense and the current coaching staff chose him, unlike Freeman and Lindsay.

Williams does look great so far, but there is no denying the Broncos’ inability to develop a running back that they have drafted. We can chalk that up to whatever we want or even call it just a coincidence, but there haven’t been many successful backs drafted by the team, at least not long term.

The last running back the Broncos drafted that performed at a high level and was productive nearly all the time would be Clinton Portis… drafted all the way back in 2002.

Freeman’s release should not be seen as a surprise. The handwriting was pretty much on the wall when the team drafted Williams following the free-agent signing of Mike Boone.

The Broncos may have explored trading Freeman and it’s a shame that they weren’t able to obtain something for him, but it’s likely another team will give him a look. He is just 25 years old and with just 297 professional carries under his belt, should have plenty of tread still on the tires.

Regardless of the reasoning, this was another in a growing line of failures at the running back position in Denver.