When Willis McGahee reported to the Denver Broncos earlier this week, after skipping the team's voluntary offseason program, he confidently said he believed he would be the team's starting running back on Sept. 5.

The Broncos clearly had other plans, and released McGahee Thursday morning before the final day of the team's minicamp. McGahee, who will turn 32 in October, was scheduled to make $2.5 million this season.

Maybe he knew something was coming.

"I'm always on the bubble. Not much you can do. It's a business. If something happens, it happens," McGahee said Tuesday when he reported.

Well, something happened two days later.

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

Denver will now move forward with 2012 third-round pick Ronnie Hillman and rookie second-rounder Montee Ball as the top two running backs, with former first-round pick Knownshon Moreno and veterans Lance Ball and Jacob Hester competing for roster spots.

McGahee's release is a sign that Broncos coaches as well as quarterback Peyton Manning must be confident in the development of Hillman and Ball in learning the offense. Hillman played little during the early part of last season as he worked to earn trust that he would not miss assignments, particularly in pass protection.

McGahee did not attend the voluntary portion of Broncos' organized team activities that began in April, citing "family obligations." He spent most of that time in his hometown of Miami, and earlier this week, Broncos coaches praised the physical shape McGahee was in when he arrived.