Veteran tackle Lepsis retires after 11 seasons as Bronco
Lepsis, who turns 34 later this month, apprised coach Mike Shanahan and team officials of his intentions Monday, a day after Denver completed a disappointing 7-9 season.
The veteran blocker told The Denver Post that, while probably able to play a few more seasons, he felt his performance slipped in 2007 and he wanted to leave the game on his terms.
"Mike would call me out for not playing very well [this season] and I had to agree with him," Lepsis told The Post. "I'd say, 'You're right, I'm playing like crap.' I didn't want to go make all that money and not give the team what I was supposed to. I could definitely still go out and play a few more years, but that's not what I wanted to do."
Lepsis' agent, Ethan Lock, declined to comment Tuesday when reached by The Associated Press.
There were still two seasons remaining on the four-year, $25 million contract extension Lepsis signed in 2006. He was scheduled to make base salaries of $4.5 million in 2008 and $4.75 million in 2009, so he's walking away from more than $9 million.
Signed by the Broncos as an undrafted college free agent in 1997 after a career as a tight end at the University of Colorado, Lepsis was converted to tackle as a rookie and moved into the lineup in his second season. During a stretch from 1998 until he suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament in 2006, he started 122 of 123 games.
Lepsis began at right tackle and then moved to the left side in 2004. His agility and quick feet made him a very good fit for the zone-blocking scheme that the Broncos use, a design that calls for a lot of cut-blocking and one that demands quickness from players.
Among his potential replacements are Ryan Harris, a third-round draft pick from Notre Dame, and Chris Kuper, who played left guard in 2007 after starter Ben Hamilton suffered a season-ending concussion in training camp.
Harris, a highly-touted third-round pick from Notre Dame who had back surgery before the season, said he's ready for a bigger role heading into his second season.
"Lepsis and Nalen teach people. They help the younger people get better," Harris told the AP. "They teach you and you learn from their practice habits and play."
For his career, Lepsis appeared in 150 games and started 133. He recovered from the torn ACL to start all 16 games this season.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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