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Joe Mays released by Denver Broncos after 21 starts

Joe Mays emerged out of nowhere in 2011 to become a starting middle linebacker for the Denver Broncos. Mays was rewarded with a nice contract extension before the start of the 2012 season. Then a serious injury struck.

In a move that was surprising just because of the timing, the Broncos released Mays on Tuesday. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah reported during the 2013 NFL Draft that Mays was made available in potential trades, and his scheduled $4 million salary was untenable. Mays lost his starting job early last season, then broke his leg and ankle while playing special teams.

The move came one day after we learned that strong-side linebacker Von Miller is facing a suspension for violating league policy. We don't see the Mays news as related, unless the Broncos are trying to free up salary-cap space to sign a Miller replacement. Ultimately, the Broncos did Mays a favor by releasing him so early.

Nate Irving is expected to take over the Broncos' starting middle linebacker job, with Steven Johnson also competing for the role. Mays still might catch on with another team as an early down run-stopper at a discounted price.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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