Broncos cut Pryce, Putzier and Anderson

Updated: April 9, 2006, 6:35 PM ET news services

The Denver Broncos shaved $14.99 million of cap room Wednesday, but it came at a big price for talent.

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The Broncos released three starters -- defensive end Trevor Pryce, running back Mike Anderson and tight end Jeb Putzier in moves that pull the team within a couple of millions of the salary cap.

Anderson was their leading rusher, Pryce was one of their most popular players and Putzier was a promising tight end. Free agency is set to open Friday.

The decision comes as team owners and the NFL Players Association struggle to reach a new labor agreement that could add millions of dollars to the 2006 salary cap, which will be $94.5 million.

"To ensure that we're under the cap going into the league year as things stand today, we have to make these moves," Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist told The Denver Post.

Pryce had a $10.2 million cap number and his release saves $8.5 million of cap room. There had no been much talk about him adjusting his salary. The same happened to Anderson, who had a $2.565 million salary that he is now not going to receive.

Pryce, 30, readjusted his contract in 2005 to remain with the Broncos and appeared in all 16 games in a comeback season in which he performed well. The former Clemson standout, a first-round choice in the 1997 draft, posted 33 tackles, four sacks and three passes defensed in 2005.

A four-time Pro Bowl performer, Pryce had three seasons remaining on his contract, at base salaries of $6.53 million (2006), $7.97 million (2007) and $9 million (2008). The Broncos saved over $8.5 million by releasing the nine-year veteran.

Pryce played nine seasons in Denver, including the 1997 and 1998 seasons when the team won back-to-back Super Bowls. In 121 career regular-season games, he had 391 tackles, 64 sacks and two interceptions.

Last season, Pryce returned from a lower-back injury to start all games and record 41 tackles.

Anderson, who missed all of the 2004 season with two torn groin muscles, recovered to lead the team in rushing yards with 1,014 yards on 239 carries. He also scored 12 touchdowns.

The six-year veteran shared rushing duties with Tatum Bell, who finished the season with 921 yards rushing on 173 carries. The Broncos also have reserve running back Ron Dayne, who showed promise during his limited playing time last season.

Peter J. Schaffer, the agent representing Anderson and Pryce, said he was optimistic about the future of both players.

"I know both of them had wonderful years," Schaffer said. "They're both realistic, classy veterans who understand the nuances of the National Football League. Their focus is on moving forward."

Schaffer said either player could return to the Broncos should the salary cap be increased.

Putzier, a sixth-round pick in 2002, played four seasons with the Broncos. He had 77 catches for 1,087 yards and two touchdowns.

But Putzier was not a favorite of coach Mike Shanahan and the club released him Wednesday before a $1.5 million roster bonus came due. senior writers John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press was also used.