- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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New England will receive Denver's fourth-round pick in 2011, team sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, who reported the trade earlier in the day, while the Broncos will get a 2011 sixth-round pick from the Patriots in addition to Maroney. The Patriots said only that the deal involved undisclosed draft considerations.
Maroney, who was limited by a thigh injury of late, was inactive for the team's season-opening win. Yet even upon his return to health, he might have remained inactive. He was expected to be in the mix for the starting role heading into the season, but had fallen down the Patriots' running back depth chart in training camp and the preseason.
The 34-year-old Fred Taylor had wrestled the No. 1 spot away from him, and Sammy Morris had also leapfrogged him because of his added value as a lead-blocking fullback and on special-teams units. And with Kevin Faulk entrenched as the team's third-down back, Maroney was left fighting for the No. 4 spot with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Because coaches look for special-teams value in that spot, Green-Ellis seemed to be a better fit than Maroney.
Basically, the Patriots traded a talented insurance policy at running back in exchange for a two-round jump in the 2011 draft. Maroney was also in the final year of his contract, so this is a sign that the Patriots didn't expect him to be back in 2011.
"I just felt like it was time for us to move on," coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday of the trade. "I have a lot of respect for Laurence. He came in, he had been for four years, he worked hard, things improved a lot. He's helped a lot as a player. I think he would have helped us this year, but we just felt like it was time to move on, and felt like we got good value on the trade, so we made it in the best interest of the football team. I'm sure he'll do well for Denver. I think they got a good player and a kid who will work hard for them."
Belichick described his conversation with Maroney as "positive" but did not elaborate.
"I drafted him, brought him in here, and I think he worked hard, tried hard, had a lot of production for us," he said. "In the end, we just went in a different direction."
Belichick said that by the end of the week, the Patriots will have a roster move to fill the 53rd spot on the roster.
Maroney, a 2006 first-round pick who struggled to meet expectations in New England in part due to injury, gets a fresh start in Denver under Josh McDaniels, who coached Maroney for three seasons while he was offensive coordinator in New England from 2006 to 2008. McDaniels, though, isn't the only one on the Broncos' staff familiar with the 25-year-old Maroney. Broncos assistant Ben McDaniels (Josh's brother) was a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota while Maroney starred for the Gophers.
The rap against Maroney over his career has been that he wastes too much time in the backfield looking for holes, running from side to side. Maroney said during camp that he was changing his style to be a more straightforward runner.
"I'm not trying to be on, what's that dance show they've got on TV? 'Dancing With the Stars'?" Maroney said. "I'm physical. Downhill."
Expectations were high for Maroney after he rushed for a combined 1,580 yards in his first two seasons with the Patriots, scoring a combined 12 touchdowns and averaging 4.4 yards per carry. In 2007, Maroney had five 100-yard games, including two in the playoffs. But a shoulder injury limited him to just three games in 2008.
He was coming off a solid season in 2009, when he rushed for 757 yards and posted career highs in carries (194) and touchdowns (9).
In four seasons with the Patriots, Maroney had 582 carries for 2,430 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 40 passes for 409 yards and a touchdown.
He joins a Broncos backfield that has been in a state of flux ever since starter Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and backup Correll Buckhalter (back) were injured during the first seven-on-seven drill of training camp on Aug. 1.
Denver brought in free agent LenDale White, but he sprained his ankle on his first full day of workouts and then tore his right Achilles tendon in the preseason finale. He is out for the season after undergoing surgery last week.
Moreno missed all of the preseason and Buckhalter had just a handful of carries before the opener at Jacksonville. Moreno gained 60 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown against the Jaguars and Buckhalter carried six times for 16 yards.
Lance Ball, a second-year pro who was cut four times before being signed to the Broncos' practice squad last November, capitalized on his carries during camp to earn a roster spot, and the Broncos brought in Andre Brown, who was cut by the New York Giants. He missed the opener with a turf toe injury.
Moreno was McDaniels' first draft pick after coming to Denver to replace Mike Shanahan. But the 12th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Georgia hurt his knee on his first series in that preseason after a protracted holdout that had fans nicknaming him "Know-show." He never seemed to find a rhythm during the regular season, failing to record any 100-yard games and repeatedly failing in short-yardage situations.
McDaniels blamed the old offensive line, which was small by NFL standards because it was built for Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, not the power system that McDaniels prefers. McDaniels beefed up his line last spring by drafting guard/tackle Zane Beadles and center J.D. Walton.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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