"Under the current situation we felt like we were better with
the younger players that we do have,'' coach Mike Shanahan said.
"They give us the best chance to win and that's the direction we
The release was first reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen and subsequently announced by Denver officials. The move makes Rice an unrestricted free agent, but also leaves him with an uncertain future.
Concerns about his surgically repaired shoulder and his age, along with his performance with the Broncos, might dissuade teams from considering him. Rice may be gambling that a playoff contender in need of pass-rush help will take a chance.
In his six appearances with the Broncos, Rice, one of the league's premier pass rushers of his era, registered only seven tackles and had no sacks. He was inactive for two games.
"He asked if it wasn't working out on both sides to be let go,
and they obliged him,'' said Broncos safety John Lynch, who played with
Rice at Tampa Bay.
"I'm disappointed it didn't work out,'' Lynch added. "I feel
partly responsible for urging him to come here, and from the start
it never worked out.''
Rice, 34, was released by Tampa Bay on the eve of training camp after six seasons with the Bucs, when the team said that he had failed a physical examination because of the shoulder injury that limited him to only eight appearances in 2006. Rice contended that the release was because he refused to accept a reduction of his 2007 base salary of $7.25 million.
After visiting with several franchises as a free agent, Rice signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Broncos a week before the start of the season. The Broncos guaranteed the deal and part of Friday was spent negotiating a settlement of those guarantees. It is believed that Rice was willing to forego money due him to gain his release.
Upset by a lack of playing time, and by being asked to rush from the unfamiliar left side, Rice acknowledged recently that he regretted signing with the Broncos. He demonstrated some flashes of his trademark upfield quickness, but Denver officials privately questioned the soundness of his shoulder and hinted he still wasn't fully recovered.
It seemed in recent days that the Broncos' brass was about as dissatisfied with Rice as he was with them.
Rice has long been one of the NFL's premier sack threats. His 121 career sacks are second most among active players, trailing only Michael Strahan of the New York Giants. He has eight seasons with double-digit sacks. His streak of five consecutive seasons with 10 or more sacks was ended last year because of the shoulder injury.
The normally durable Rice had missed just one game in his first 10 seasons in the league.
Rice was originally chosen by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the 1996 draft. In 172 games, he has 590 tackles, 37 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, five interceptions and 60 pass deflections.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.