Coming off a wildly disappointing season, the Broncos carry a few needs. Multiple such spots come along Denver’s offensive line, which struggled to both establish a steady ground attack or protect Russell Wilson.
The Broncos are keeping Garett Bolles in place at left tackle, GM George Paton said, and Quinn Meinerz will be back at right guard. Despite the Broncos’ dreadful season on offense, Pro Football Focus ranked Meinerz as a top-10 guard. The rest of the line is in flux going into Sean Payton‘s first season.
“We need to upgrade at the offensive line,’’ Paton said, via 9News’ Mike Klis. “There’s a lot of different ways to acquire any position—free agency, the draft. It just kind of depends on what’s stronger. Is free agency stronger or the draft stronger? Obviously, we need to upgrade there on the offensive line.”
Right tackle has created annual issues up front for the Broncos. The team is near certain to go into an 11th straight season with a different Week 1 starter at that position. Aside from that streak set to drag into a second decade, the team has four-year guard starter Dalton Risner headed to free agency and center Lloyd Cushenberry coming off an injury-plagued season.
PFF has viewed Cushenberry as a bottom-tier center during his three-year run with the Broncos; Paton was not yet in place when the former third-round pick arrived. While the Broncos struggled up front for much of 2022, they were without three starters for most of it. Bolles went down in Week 5, while right tackle Billy Turner missed nine games. Potential right-side starter Tom Compton missed 16.
This will be a year for right tackle-needy teams to strike in free agency. Mike McGlinchey, Kaleb McGary and Jawaan Taylor are, barring franchise tags for the Falcons or Jaguars right-siders, poised to hit the market. These would be costly investments, but the Broncos’ repeated failures to staff this position could point to such a move. The team has generally tried stopgap types here, though its one big swing at the position during this carousel produced a resounding whiff. Big-ticket 2019 signing Ja’Wuan James failed to play 100 snaps for the team before being released in 2021.
One season remains on Cushenberry’s rookie deal, and Graham Glasgow has played both guard and center for the team. While the Broncos brought Glasgow back on a pay cut in 2022, the John Elway-era free agent signing is set to carry a $14MM cap number this season. He joins Ronald Darby as prime cut candidates for the Broncos, who have just $9MM in cap space.
Denver is not expected to need to create room for a franchise tag. The team is not planning to cuff defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, but that will probably mean a bidding war. Although the Broncos are trying to re-sign the former third-round pick, Jones is eager to see what is out there for him. The three-year starter is planning to test free agency, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets.
With Washington tagging Daron Payne, Jones will enter free agency as one of the best D-linemen available. He has expressed interest in staying with the Broncos, but it will be expensive for the team to retain the Ohio State alum. Denver only has one defender attached to a top-10 contract at his respective position (Justin Simmons), but the team could need to add Jones to that list were a second contract agreement to be reached.