With free agency starting a week from Tuesday, the Broncos have to start planning for some major changes, even offensively where they probably don’t want much to change.
The biggest changes could come on the offensive line, but change for the good. The Broncos will be getting back All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady, who missed all but two games last year with a foot injury.
That injury seems like a lifetime ago, and the Broncos’ offensive play obviously didn’t drop off too much in his absence. Chris Clark was able to step in and do a fabulous job, being given the label of “Secret Superstar” by Pro Football Focus, who also graded him very highly for this past season.
The Broncos valued Clark highly enough to extend him right before he took over Clady’s full-time role as the left tackle. They did the same for Manny Ramirez, who stepped in and started all 16 games last year at center after J.D. Walton and Dan Koppen were either unable to play or were injured/eventually cut.
This offseason, Denver could lose left guard and 2012 Pro Bowler Zane Beadles, whose asking price may be too rich for them to pursue. There have been rumors floating around also that the Broncos don’t feel like they need to make any drastic roster moves if Beadles were to leave, other than acquiring depth. They feel like they can use players already on the roster and in the rotation to replace him.
The thought is that they will use current right tackle Orlando Franklin as the left guard. Franklin projected to guard coming into the league, but with a power running game the Broncos opted to start him at right tackle coming out. He’s done an okay job at tackle, but the Broncos have used him at times in practice at guard and per Jeff Legwold of ESPN, feel like they can move him there permanently.
If Franklin moves inside to guard, Chris Clark would take his spot at right tackle and Clady would take over again at left tackle. The Broncos also are high on 2013 sixth rounder Vinston Painter, who was signed to the active roster near the end of last year before the 49ers tried to poach him off the Broncos’ practice squad.
Painter has a lot of upside and could eventually start at right tackle provided his development stays on track.
The Broncos will need to add depth on the interior offensive line, so don’t be surprised to see them draft a player that can play a few different positions. There are also some intriguing players on the practice squad/future contract list that could wind up making the roster next year.