The Denver Broncos spent a good amount of money plugging holes and getting some elite talent for the defensive side of the ball in free agency, but one area that’s been slightly overlooked in the free agent madness is the left guard/center position for the Broncos.
After it was learned that J.D. Walton would not be able to play until late in the 2013 season and Dan Koppen went down with a season-ending injury, the Broncos were forced to go with Manny Ramirez as the center, and thankfully they had nearly the entire offseason to plan for that.
Ramirez did a great job as the pivot man for one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and earned a contract extension that runs through the 2014-15 campaigns. He won’t be a free agent until 2016, and unless he significantly regresses, he should have a starting job locked up for both of the next two seasons.
At left guard, former Pro Bowler Zane Beadles bolted in the early stages of free agency for the Jacksonville Jaguars, leaving the Broncos with a void up front. They could go after a center and move Ramirez to his natural guard position, or they could leave Ramirez at center and try to find a left guard via free agency or the draft.
The Broncos weren’t going to spend big money on a guard in free agency after just doing so last year with Louis Vasquez, who ended up being a first-team All-Pro.
Since the Broncos opted not to look to free agency for a starting guard or at least a high-priced starting guard, they could either wait out the market and try to get a veteran to play on the cheap, or they could look to the 2014 NFL Draft.
I think this is one of the more interesting drafts due to its overall depth, and I think the Broncos can really find some upgrades on the offensive line with one of their top three picks.
UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo is considered the best guard in the draft, followed by Stanford’s David Yankey. Both players are good enough to warrant the Broncos using the 31st pick on either, though some speculate that Su’a-Filo could go well in advance of the Broncos’ selection.
USC center Marcus Martin was recently called the best interior offensive lineman in the draft by ESPN’s Kevin Weidl, and if that’s the case he would also be worth the 31st selection and would allow the Broncos to move Ramirez to guard.
Other players like Nevada’s Joel Bitonio who played tackle in college project as guards in the NFL and are guys the Broncos have considered and talked to in the pre-draft process. They’ve also talked to Austin Wentworth, who was a long-time starter for Fresno State that is projected to go in the later rounds.
The Broncos have also got some players on the reserve/future list that could warrant some consideration. Mike Farrell and Ryan Miller are both young players who have some potential as guards in the NFL.
Either way, Denver will have ample opportunity to figure out this situation as we approach the draft. We’ll have a pretty good idea come May whether or not this team figures to use a high selection on an interior offensive lineman, and I think this is a great draft to do so with the players available.