Broncos sign running back Theo Riddick after surprise release

Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) celebrates a touchdown. (Paul Sancya/AP)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Blindsided by the Lions , running back Theo Riddick became an unexpected free agent just as training camps were opening across the NFL.

He landed in Denver and signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Broncos on Sunday, eight days after his surprising release from Detroit.

A valuable pass catcher with 285 career receptions, Riddick drew interest from several teams and met with the Saints. But he chose the Broncos "because they’re going to utilize my talents and my strengths" and experience, Riddick said.

"We’ve got a young room, very talented, but hopefully I can help them out," said Riddick, who spent part of his first practice Sunday doling out tips to second-year running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman.

He also flashed some of those great hands that have allowed him to top 50 receptions four years in a row .

"Oh yeah, he looked real smooth today," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "I didn’t see him run the ball more than (just) catching the rock out of the backfield and running routes. But he’s definitely going to be another threat at running back that we need."

Riddick said he’s thrilled to team up with Vic Fangio after facing him the last four years in the NFC North when the Broncos’ rookie head coach was directing Chicago’s stingy defence.

"It’s awesome, man, because that defence there, especially as of late, has been pretty darn dominant," Riddick said.

In Denver, Riddick is reunited with running backs coach Curtis Modkins, who was his position coach in Detroit during his first three seasons in the NFL.

Modkins helped mould Riddick from a wide receiver and sixth-round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2013 into a pass-catching running back, one who caught a whopping 80 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns in 2015.

"So, to line up with him again," Riddick said, "it’s going to be another fun ride."

Riddick was second on the Lions last season with 61 catches for 384 yards. He also rushed for 171 yards on 40 carries.

Since entering the league, Riddick ranks among the league leaders by a running back with 14 TD receptions, 285 catches and 2,238 receiving yards.

But the Lions moved on from one of their mainstays in their backfield to make room for defensive lineman Mike Daniels, who was cut by the Green Bay Packers on the eve of their training camp.

Asked if he was blindsided by his release from the Lions, Riddick said: "I was, to be honest with you, but it’s the name of the game. It was no shock to me. But it just kind of sparks that fire in you.

"And it’s lit."

NOTES: Fangio said he still hadn’t passed the kidney stone that sent him to the hospital before the Broncos’ 14-10 win over Atlanta in the Hall of Fame Game. … The Broncos placed DL Billy Winn (arm) on IR. … Fangio said ILB Joseph Jones will be out a few weeks with an unspecified injury. … Fangio on rookie QB Drew Lock’s debut: "I was hoping for more but not surprised by his play. I mean, he’s a rookie playing in a pro system that he didn’t play in in college and he’s not ready yet. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t be ready two weeks from now, three weeks from now or four weeks from now." … One rookie debut that did impress Fangio was that of DE Dre’Mont Jones . "He caused the interception we got and then he applied good pressure after we scored and they had the two-minute drive," Fangio said. "That’s valuable stuff."

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