Paxton’s Release a Shock … or Was It?

Lonie Paxton

PAXTON: … the bell tolled for him Monday.

Looking back, maybe we should have seen the Lonie Paxton release coming.

As far as long snappers go, he was overpaid. With the league well into a generational shift at the position, veterans like Jason Kyle — who was John Fox’s long snapper during most of his years with the Panthers — and ex-longtime Charger David Binn were being jettisoned for younger options that offered more bang for the buck — although Binn found his way onto the Broncos’ roster last January when a family emergency kept Paxton from traveling to New England.

Even a four-to-six-year veteran has a minimum salary of $700,000; rookies, on the other hand, start at $390,000, increasing to $540,000 in year two and $615,000 in year three, on up to $925,000 in year 10 or more.

In three years, Paxton was effective and reliable — but no more so than the man he replaced, Mike Leach. Leach hadn’t misfired on a snap in more than five years, which is why Paxton’s signing came as a shock within the locker room. Leach was released a day later and continued his career with the Arizona Cardinals, but the damage in the locker room was repaired; veteran holdovers justifiably fretted that their accomplishments in the previous regime no longer mattered.

Paxton’s release means the Broncos have severed yet another tie with the Josh McDaniels era. Paxton was among the Broncos’ first free-agent pickups under McDaniels, following him from New England for a $1 million signing bonus. Now, only one of McDaniels’ unrestricted pickups remains on the roster: DT Justin Bannan, who was cut in 2011 but brought back this year.

As usual, Paxton was reliable this summer — but so was Aaron Brewer, a rookie from San Diego State, who was perfect on his field-goal and punt snaps in the first two weeks of the preseason. With that work, Brewer comfortably answered the question that lingers over every rookie who flourishes in OTAs and training camp … “How will he do under the lights?”

The Broncos have tracked every snap Brewer has made in practice. They have a sufficiently large sample size with which to analyze his play. His preseason game work simply confirmed suspicion — that he is good enough for the job.

This isn’t the first time Fox has gone with an untested snapper. In 2009, the Panthers didn’t re-sign Kyle, who had been as reliable as the sunrise for a veteran-laden team coming off a 12-4 season. But Kyle’s replacement, J.J. Jansen, came aboard without a single regular-season snap to his name and proved more than capable of handling the workload.

And if it’s a matter of trust … then consider that New England gave snapping duties to rookie Danny Aiken last year, or that 12 snappers have handled the work without previous NFL experience.

Jansen, Fox’s last inexperienced snapper, is still with Carolina, having weathered multiple changes at punter and placekicker to become the stabilizing force of their special teams. The Broncos hope that Brewer has similar staying power.

TOUGH CUT: RB Xavier Omon looked the part during training camp practices and in the preseason opener at Chicago. He ran decisively and showed flashes of the brilliance that set scores of records at Northwest Missouri State.

But the Broncos face a question at the back of the running back depth chart, where the competition remains intense. They also need to get Ronnie Hillman some more work Thursday to bring him up to speed following his hamstring injury. It was apparent there would be no work for Omon on Thursday, thus, the cut was made.

THE CUTS:

  • LB Elliot Coffey (rookie, undrafted, Baylor)
  • WR Mark Dell (first year, undrafted free agent in 2011, Michigan State)
  • WR Cameron Kenney (first year, 2012 waiver claim, Oklahoma)
  • TE Anthony Miller (rookie, undrafted, California)
  • DE Cyril Obiozor (third year, 2012 street free agent, Texas A&M)
  • RB Xavier Omon (third year, 2011 practice squad, Northwest Missouri State)
  • LS Lonie Paxton (13th year, unrestricted free agent in 2009, Sacramento State)
  • S Anthony Perkins (rookie, undrafted, Colorado)
  • OT Mike Remmers (rookie, undrafted, Oregon State)
  • CB Ramzee Robinson (fourth year, 2012 street free agent, Alabama)
  • FB Austin Sylvester (first year, 2011 practice squad, Washington)
  • G Austin Wuebbels (rookie, undrafted, Missouri)

About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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