Broncos keep 3 QBs, cut veteran cornerback Drayton Florence, RB Jeremiah Johnson

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tenth-year cornerback Drayton Florence was cut Friday when the Denver Broncos kept three quarterbacks on their roster.

Caleb Hanie was sacked nine times in the preseason but he played better than 21-year-old rookie Brock Osweiler, who was drafted in the second round as the Broncos’ QB of the future.

“He made it. Surprise,” cracked Broncos boss John Elway.

If things go the way Manning and Elway hope, neither Hanie nor Osweiler will see the field in 2012.

Elway said Manning’s progress from a series of neck surgeries that weakened his throwing arm and led to him switching teams in the offseason is on track.

“He’s probably right where I thought he’d be,” Elway said. “I really didn’t have a lot of doubts once we heard the reports when we were back at Duke in March, and the expectations of what we heard from the doctors and where he would be at this point in time — if anything he’s exceeded that.

“So, is it surprising to me? No. And so we’re excited to finally get through the camp and through all that hype that we’ve been through since Peyton’s been here and it’s time now to start playing football, which is the fun part.”

Florence signed a two-year deal with Denver in May after his release from Buffalo, but the Broncos kept just five cornerbacks when they trimmed their roster to 53. Tony Carter won the nickel back job and fourth-round draft pick Omar Bolden will be the dime back.

Asked why he kept Carter over Florence, Elway said, “He played better. ... We just felt that Tony was a better football player.”

The Broncos also kept veteran linebacker Keith Brooking, who missed the entire preseason after pulling a hamstring during his second practice.

“I think we’re going off reputation and the leadership that he can bring,” said Elway, who also kept safety/punt returner Jim Leonhard, who had offseason knee surgery and made a spectacular Denver debut Thursday night at Arizona.

Other notable cuts included free safety Rafael Bush, tackle Ryan Harris, running back Jeremiah Johnson, middle linebacker Mike Mohamed, cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson and quarterback Adam Weber.

Johnson was beaten out by former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, who was one of the bigger surprises in camp after recovering from knee surgery that cut short his 2011 season.

“That was a tough decision, but Knowshon will probably make us a better football team,” Elway said.

Overall, Elway said the cuts were tougher this year, “which is a good thing. That means you’re getting better as a football team.”

The Broncos also placed defensive end Jeremy Beal on season-ending injured reserve with a torn ligament in his left knee.

Weakside linebacker D.J. Williams (at least six games) and backup tight end Virgil Green (four games) were placed on the reserve/suspended list following failed drug tests. Williams’ punishment could be extended following his recent conviction for driving while ability impaired.

Hanie came on strong halfway through camp but was up-and-down in the preseason games, where he completed 22 of 39 passes for 246 yards. He had one TD toss and one interception but was sacked nine times — an astonishing once per every 4.3 drop-backs — including five times Thursday night.