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Broncos add Buckhalter, Arrington to fill holes in backfield

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos began retooling their team with a couple of free agent running backs Friday.

The Broncos signed Correll Buckhalter to a four-year deal and were putting the finishes touches on a four-year contract for J.J. Arrington, said J.R. Rickert, the agent for both players.

The Broncos, under new leadership in coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders, cleared $37 million in cap space heading into free agency.

The team also signed Miami safety Renaldo Hill and are talking to safety Brian Dawkins, whom they were hoping to lure to Denver after 13 seasons in Philadelphia.

Buckhalter was hampered by knee injuries early in his career, missing three of four seasons from 2002-05. But he was a solid backup to Brian Westbrook the last three seasons in Philadelphia, and his 369 yards rushing last season were more than any Broncos running back. He ran for two scores and caught two touchdown passes among his 26 receptions for 324 yards.

Buckhalter will get a chance to start for the Broncos, who were hit by an injury epidemic in their backfield last season, when they lost an astonishing seven tailbacks to injured reserve, including converted fullback Peyton Hillis (hamstring) and fellow rookie Ryan Torain (knee).

If healthy, Hillis and Torain will also compete for the starting job with Buckhalter.

"It's been a dream of his and a goal of his since he entered the league," Rickert said of Buckhalter's desire to serve as a featured back. "He's always been in a split situation or a No. 2 situation. He sees this as an opportunity to win a starting job. He's not expecting anybody to give it to him.

"But he knows he's capable of being a starting back in the NFL."

Arrington figures he can be a big contributor in the Broncos' backfield, too. He had 187 yards rushing, 255 yards receiving and 923 yards on kickoff returns for the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals last season.

He's spent all four of his NFL seasons in Arizona, where he averaged a career-best 25.6 yards on kickoff returns last year.

"J.J.'s not what most people would consider an every-down back, but he can be effective and explosive when he comes in," Rickert said. "I don't think J.J.'s coming in thinking about starting. Of course, everybody wants to play and start. But I think he understands where he can fit in."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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