Broncos release Willis McGahee

The Denver Broncos released running back Willis McGahee, the team's starter the past two seasons, from their crowded backfield on Thursday.

"I knew it was going to happen. It is what it is. They are going younger," McGahee told ESPN's Josina Anderson.

Second-year pro Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball have been getting most of the work out of the backfield for the Broncos this offseason.

McGahee told ESPN he'll be rooting for the running backs that remain on Denver's roster to do well.

"I don't have anything against the people behind me. Now they have the opportunity. I wish them nothing but the best of luck. They're all good kids," he said.

Hours after releasing McGahee, the Broncos signed Ball, their second-round draft pick, along with cornerback Kayvon Webster, their third-round selection.

McGahee, pushing 32 years old, is coming off a significant knee injury that sidelined him for the final two months last season and was set to make $2.5 million in 2013. McGahee said earlier this week that he's 100 percent now and has no restrictions running.

McGahee told ESPN that the Broncos didn't ask him about returning to the team at a lower salary.

"I will keep playing," he said. "I don't feel like I have to go out there and say what I have left. I know what I can do. I'm not worried about it. Once I get the opportunity, it will be all good."

McGahee said he has a list of teams that he wouldn't mind signing with.

"There are a lot of places I wouldn't mind playing. You got Miami, Dallas, Green Bay, San Diego, Oakland. That's not necessarily my order of preference, though. All of those teams I mentioned I would go to with no problems," he said.

The 11th-year running back skipped each of the Broncos' 10 "voluntary" practices over the past month but showed up for the start of the team's three-day mandatory minicamp Tuesday.

McGahee said he skipped the OTAs for family reasons and insisted that missing those workouts didn't put him in a bad spot by giving the youngsters a head start.

"It's never easy to part ways with a veteran player who made so many positive contributions to our team and community," Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway said in a statement.

"I appreciate all of the competitiveness, toughness and leadership Willis brought to the Broncos. He was an integral part of our team's turnaround during the past two seasons, and I wish him the best as he continues his NFL career."

McGahee, who became one of the NFL's most dependable runners despite tearing all the ligaments in his left knee during his last game in college, tore a ligament in his right knee in a game against San Diego in November -- when he was tackled low by Quentin Jammer, who signed with Denver this offseason -- and missed the rest of the season. Still, he led the team with 731 yards rushing.

Although he still had a limp, he would have been eligible to return to the field for the AFC championship had the Broncos not lost to Baltimore in the playoffs in a game they really could have used McGahee to salt away a lead late in the fourth quarter.

McGahee rushed for 1,930 yards with eight touchdowns in 25 games with the Broncos. He has 33 100-yard games, the most of any active NFL running back.

ESPN's Josina Anderson contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press also was used.