Broncos release linebacker D.J. Williams

The Denver Broncos have parted ways with versatile but vexing

linebacker D.J. Williams.

The Broncos released the nine-year veteran Monday on the eve of

free agency, freeing up his $6 million salary in 2013 for other

needs.

”We appreciate the contributions made by D.J. Williams during

his time with the Broncos,” John Elway, vice president of football

operations, said in a statement. ”He was a solid player with this

team for a number of years, showing a lot of versatility at

linebacker. Our organization wishes D.J. all the best going

forward.”

The Broncos also have asked Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis

Dumervil to take a pay cut. If not, he’ll be traded or released

before Saturday when his $12 million salary for 2013 becomes

guaranteed. Dumervil is also due $10 million in 2014 and $8 million

in 2015.

Williams missed nine games while serving a pair of NFL-mandated

suspensions last season and was deemed expendable after Wesley

Woodyard had a breakout season at weakside linebacker in Jack Del

Rio’s defense.

The Broncos also released third quarterback Caleb Hanie, a

former Colorado State star who didn’t take a single snap in his one

season in Denver following four years as the backup in Chicago.

The Broncos were busy on many fronts Monday, finalizing a

three-year deal to keep backup safety David Bruton, their top

special teams player, and working to keep defensive tackle Kevin

Vickerson in navy and orange before the start of free agency

Tuesday.

Williams’ departure is notable because he and cornerback Champ

Bailey were the longest-tenured Broncos, their careers in Denver

dating back to Mike Shanahan’s time as coach.

Williams was a first-round draft pick (17th overall) out of the

University of Miami in 2004 and played four different linebacker

positions during his nine seasons in Denver, where he led the team

in tackles five times.

”It’s the nature of the business,” Bruton said about Williams’

release. ”Guys change, things change. D.J. is still a young

player. He was a great teammate. He’ll definitely make it somewhere

and he’ll continue to make plays because whenever he stepped on the

field here, he made plays. Best of luck to him. He’s been a great

player and a good teammate. Just, his time was up here.”

Williams is one of only five NFL players during the last nine

seasons to post at least 800 tackles and 20 sacks, and he displayed

his versatility by starting at the weakside, middle, strongside and

inside positions for a revolving door of defensive coordinators and

schemes in Denver.

He turns 31 this summer and is sure to draw interest on the open

market but he is coming off a season in which he collected just 14

tackles in seven games and only made one start because of his two

suspensions that cost him about $4 million in salary and relegated

him to playing on special teams and in sub packages upon his return

in November.

Williams was suspended six games for violating the league’s

policy on performance-enhancing drugs and three games for an

alcohol-related arrest in 2010 that led to a conviction last

August.

He was originally charged with driving under the influence, but

a jury convicted him of the lesser charge of driving while

impaired. He was also convicted of driving without headlights, the

offense that prompted police to stop him near downtown Denver in

the early morning hours on Nov. 12, 2010, before taking him to a

detox facility.

The Broncos stripped Williams of his captaincy shortly after his

arrest – the second time he’d been detained for suspicion of

drunken driving. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to impaired

driving.

A judge last fall sentenced him to 30 days of house arrest and

two years’ probation.

Williams also made news last summer by tweeting a picture of his

new digital playbook and saying his coaches were asking him to

switch positions yet again.

If Dumervil follows Williams out the door, the Broncos will have

some big shoes to fill on a defense that was one of the NFL’s

stingiest last season.

”It’s always important to keep a defense together,” Bruton

said. ”This is the first time having the same defensive

coordinator in my career here. So I feel like that’s a great step

in the right direction. But teams change, players change. We just

don’t want to change that mentality no matter who we bring in.

”As far as me worrying, I don’t have to worry as much anymore.

You still worry who they bring in, because the NFL is a revolving

door. Guys come in, guys come out. It’s just the nature of the

business.”

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on

Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton