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Brandon Stokley hopes to return for 2013

ENGLEWOOD – With another year to work with Peyton Manning, wide receiver Brandon Stokley believes the Broncos’ offense can soar higher. Now he just wants a chance to help make that happen.

The 36-year-old Stokley acknowledges that he’s “not sure” what his future holds, but his preference would be to return for the 2013 season. At this time, he is due to become an unrestricted free agent.

“I definitely would still love to play. I still love to compete and I feel this is the only thing that I do halfway good, so why stop now? So, for me, hopefully I get another opportunity,” Stokley said.

“I love this group of guys in this locker room and the receivers that we had, it couldn’t have been better. It was just a lot of fun. I had so much fun.”

Stokley finished third on the Broncos with five receiving touchdowns in 2012, and was fourth in receptions (45) and yardage (544), often sharing slot-receiving duties with another ex-Colt, tight end Jacob Tamme.

But the season came to a foul end Saturday, when Manning’s final pass of the campaign, intended for Stokley, was intercepted by Ravens safety Corey Graham in overtime.

“That, and there’s about 12 other plays throughout the game that we just didn’t make and that they made. Those are all plays that cost us the game,” Stokley said.

And as a result, the Ravens won, 38-35 — although Stokley feels his former team was not the better one.

“Not in my mind,” he said. “I feel like we’re the best team, but, in the NFL, it doesn’t matter. It’s one game and it’s whoever plays better and they played better than us yesterday. They just executed the critical plays a little bit better than we did.”

Manning’s decision to sign with the Broncos last March smoothed the path for Stokley’s return after two seasons away from the team following his release during the 2010 preseason.

Stokley played for the Seahawks in 2010 and the Giants in 2011, but an injury brought a quick end to his New York stint and left him with an uncertain future before he and Manning were reunited.

“Without him, I wouldn’t have played this year, there’s no doubt. I’d be retired, probably about 20 pounds heavier,” Stokley said. “So, yeah, I owe him a lot for this year and a lot for my career in general. Coming from Baltimore, going to (Indianapolis), that kind of sparked my career, playing with him. Yeah, I owe the guy a lot.”

Another pending free agent, Keith Brooking, said he hasn’t thought about whether he wants to saddle up for a 16th NFL season after becoming the starting middle linebacker for much of the season.

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