Broncos cut ties with their leading tackler Todd Davis

DENVER (AP) — The Denver Broncos have released inside linebacker Todd Davis, their leading tackler in three of the last four seasons.

“I’m going to miss Todd,” coach Vic Fangio said following a Friday night practice at Empower Field, where the Broncos will open the season against Tennessee. “Todd was a great player here for many years, and I’m wishing him nothing but the best. We’re going to miss him.”

Fangio said Davis became expendable when the Broncos acquired a pair of veterans in Mark Barron and Austin Calitro, and he indicated Josey Jewell with start alongside Alexander Johnson in the team’s revamped inside linebacker corps.

Jewell credited Davis with preparing him for this opportunity.

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“He’s been a great leader ever since I got here. He was like a brotherly figure to me and a father figure, too,” Jewell said. “He led me along in the early years, my first two years, really just showed me the ropes, helped me with defense and really just taught me how to act. He was a great player, great leader and now I have a chance to follow in his shoes.”

Fangio said Jewell and Alexander will share the role of relaying defensive play calls depending on the personnel groupings.

Jewell started alongside Davis last year and recorded a career-best 14 tackles in the season opener at Oakland, but he popped a hamstring later in September and was supplanted by Johnson, never regaining his starting role in 2019.

Now, Jewell and Johnson have developed a good chemistry.

“I think we just have a lot of great communication out there,” Jewell said. “We vibe really well together out there.”

Davis’ departure came on the same day the Broncos acquired Calitro from the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for defensive lineman Christian Covington.

Davis has been sidelined for a couple of weeks with a strained calf, although not as severe as a similar injury that he sustained last summer.

The Broncos claimed Davis off waivers in 2014 and appeared in 82 games, for them, including four playoff contests, in his six seasons in Denver.

Davis, who was due $4.5 million this season, is coming off his best season. He had 134 defensive stops last year despite missing the first two games.

The Broncos have retooled their linebacker corps of late despite not spending big money on the position in free agency or targeting linebacker in the early rounds of the NFL draft this spring.

When rookie linebacker Justin Strnad, a fifth-round pick, underwent season-ending wrist surgery last month, the Broncos signed Barron, a ninth-year veteran who shined in Pittsburgh last season. Barron collected 82 tackles, three sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups in 2019, but the Steelers released him in a salary cap move.

Calitro is a third-year pro from Villanova who has 79 tackles in 29 career games with the Seattle Seahawks (2018) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2019). He had been claimed off waivers by the Bengals earlier this year.

“Calitro is a guy that we’ve liked,” Fangio said. “He became available because Cincinnati needed a defensive linemen, so we made a trade there. Our personnel people have had feelings for him in the past and we acquired him.”

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