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Should the Broncos target free agent running back Darren Sproles?

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If the Saints release Darren Sproles, will the Broncos take a look at the versatile running back?

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

The Denver Broncos were hoping Ronnie Hillman would become the next Darren Sproles when drafted him two years ago. Might they be interested in going after the original Darren Sproles?

The New Orleans Saints are currently shopping Sproles and plan to release him if they cannot find a trading partner, according to ESPN.com. It seems unlikely that a trade will happen with teams knowing Sproles is likely to hit the open market. In the final year of a four-year deal he signed with New Orleans in 2011, Sproles was due a base salary of $3.4 million in 2014.

Originally drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers, Sproles has played in 11 games against the Broncos, owning a 6-5 record. In those games, Sproles gained 1,527 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, and returning) and scored nine touchdowns (one rushing, seven receiving, and two returning). The Broncos have seen first-hand what Sproles is capable of as a dangerous receiver out of the backfield and explosive punt returner.

Denver's current returner, Trindon Holliday, is not expected to return to Denver, opening the door for the Broncos to pursue a return man. At this point in his career, Sproles only handles punt returns, but is not uncommon for a team to have separate kickoff and punt returners. Sproles would also give quarterback Peyton Manning another weapon to work with on offense.

Another AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs, may also be interested in Sproles' services.

Sproles will turn 31 this summer but has never been a feature back in his career, allowing him to still be productive as an aging running back. With Montee Ball expected to be Denver's workhorse in 2014, Sproles could give Denver a change-of-pace option that Hillman has failed to provide over the past two seasons.

The Broncos currently have $24.9 million in salary cap space (that number from Overthecap.com may actually be lower than Denver's actual figure) and may begin negotiating with player's agents starting today. If the Chiefs do indeed pursue Sproles, Denver may consider making him an offer merely to avoid facing him twice a year once again.

In 2011, Sproles set an NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards in a single season. In his career, Sproles has gained 15,504 all-purpose yards and scored 45 total touchdowns.