The Broncos’ signing of ex-49ers and Jaguars wide receiver Jason Hill, first reported by The Denver Post on Wednesday night, could be a harbinger of what they plan to do with Eddie Royal.
Royal is due to become an unrestricted free agent March 13 after a season in which he had career lows in receptions and yardage. Seemingly supplanted on the Broncos’ depth chart by 2010 draft picks Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Royal’s primary value last year was as as reliable returner; in fact, his most crucial play of the regular season was a touchdown return at Oakland in Week 9 that broke a 24-all standoff in the fourth quarter.
Hill has one more season of experience than Royal, breaking into the league in 2007 as a draft pick of the 49ers. He also has a connection with Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Not only did Hill start 10 games for Del Rio before he was fired by the Jaguars, but Hill was cut by Jacksonville on Nov. 30 — one day after Del Rio was fired with a 3-8 record.
When the Jaguars jettisoned Hill, he already had career highs for receiving yardage (367) and receiving touchdowns (three). Those are modest totals, to be sure, but they easily outpaced Royal’s 2011 numbers in the same categories (155 and 1, respectively).
Among the 94 wide receivers who had at least 25 receptions in 2011, Hill ranked 37th in first-down percentage; 17 of his 25 catches (68 percent) made the line to gain. By comparison, Thomas hit the sticks on 75 percent of his catches; Decker did so 65.9 percent of the time.
THE SIGNING OF C.J. DAVIS could prove intriguing as the year develops.
Carolina invested two seasons of development in the former University of Pittsburgh guard, waiting out a rookie season spent on injured reserve and retaining him for the 2010 season. But when John Fox and offensive line coach Dave Magazu left, Davis wasn’t far behind, and didn’t make it out of the 2011 preseason. Carolina placed him on the waived/injured list last Sep. 5 and he didn’t play again in 2011.
The key issue with Davis are the free agents Denver has up front: backup guards Russ Hochstein and Manny Ramirez. If they depart, Davis could be in position to make the roster.