Montee Ball signs with Denver Broncos; Willis McGahee released

USA TODAY Sports

The former Wisconsin running back is now officially a professional football player. Sounds like he'll get a great shot at Denver's starting job, too.

At risk of becoming Mile High Report East, let us offer a disclaimer of sorts. Tempting as it is to cover Montee Ball's early NFL career rigorously -- considering how great we know he can be and how much we came to appreciate him -- we are, by name, a college blog. But we like to check in on Badgers in the NFL from time to time, and will do it again to some extent.

That said, two cool things happened to Ball yesterday. First, he signed his rookie contract. Terms of the deal aren't yet known, though relatively speaking, former Oregon running back LaMichael James was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round (61st overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft and started with a $390,000 base salary. Ball, of course, was drafted 58th overall in the 2013 draft.

Second, the Broncos also released running back Willis McGahee on Friday. McGahee, turning 32 this season and working his way back from yet another knee injury, was due $2.5 million. Considering the relative inexperience elsewhere on the Broncos' depth chart, Ball's expected to be the starter at this early juncture.

"It's a business. I had nothing to do with it," Ball said. "The couple days I had with McGahee were kind of special because the guy is a great man. He's a great man and I most definitely wish him the best. Like I said, it's a business and this program is going to most definitely stay on track."

--ESPN.com

Unsurprisingly, Ball's been saying all the right things. You can also read the nice things quarterback Peyton Manning, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and head coach John Fox had to say about him here and here. I especially enjoyed this quote from Manning, not long after a team golf outing late last month.

"I can tell you Ball (and rookie tackle Vinston Painter) have been studying their playbooks and not playing much golf, which is a good thing," Manning joked Thursday.

[SNIP]

"We're 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," Manning said. "He's a rookie, but coach (John) Fox isn't going to bring him along slowly."

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