Broncos Need to Keep an Eye on Bryan Bulaga


If John Elway wants Peyton Manning back and make him feel good about it, he’ll sign Bryan Bulaga.

That would show the veteran quarterback the goal of the Denver Broncos is the same. That it’s still win the Super Bowl or bust. That Elway will do whatever it takes to make sure Manning goes out a Super Bowl champion.

Sign Bulaga, who has spent his career as the right tackle for the Green Bay Packers, and Denver would solidify the right-side of the offensive line. That move would allow the Broncos to move Louis Vasquez back to his natural position of right guard, where’s he one of the best in the NFL. Vasquez was an All-Pro his first season in Denver. With Bulaga to his right, Manning would have two of the best on his strong-side.

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Added with new coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison with their zone-blocking scheme, Manning also will have a running game at his disposal. The running game immediately becomes one of the best in the league. What’s also nice is the system fits C.J. Anderson very, very well.

There’s also the return of Alex Gibbs as a consultant. All of those moves also will help left tackle Ryan Clady, who admitted his Lisfranc injury hampered him most of the season. If Clady can get right, plus being back in the system he played in college at Boise State and early in his career with the Broncos, it makes the offensive line even better.

But the key in this is Bulaga.

Bulaga finished 2014 with a +12.7 Pro Football Focus grade (+13.2 in pass blocking, +0.1 in run blocking). He allowed four sacks and 25 hits or hurries on the season. Bulaga’s best season was 2011, his second year in the NFL. He had a +19.0 PFF grade (+8.2 in pass protection, +10.3 in run blocking). He allowed only one sack that season. Bulaga is perfect for Denver’s new offense and the type of offensive lineman who thrives in this system.

Nov 30, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (right) lines up across from Green Bay Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga (left) during the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The belief is Bulaga will net somewhere between $6-7 million per year. The right tackle position has been a major weak point over the last few seasons for the Broncos, so Elway could pull a move like he did with Vasquez. The addition of Bulaga actually makes the right-side of the line a serious strength when you add Vasquez to the mix.

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  • If you think the salary cap could play a problem, give Elway some credit. With the obvious roster moves Elway will (should) make, that will put Denver well over $30 million in salary cap space. That’s without asking Manning to take a pay cut. If Elway and the Broncos do, that would push the cap space closer to $40 million. That’s more than enough room to re-sign Demaryius Thomas, Orlando Franklin, Terrance Knighton, maybe Rahim Moore and Bulaga. I also wouldn’t rule out Ndamukong Suh and/or Patrick Willis.

    As Elway proved last year, he’s a wizard with the salary cap. It’s all about how the deals are structured. Look at Aqib Talib and the contract he got from Denver last year. On its face, it looks like a guaranteed deal for near $50 million. In reality, it’s a series of one-year deals. That’s also how Manning’s contract is structured, and how Elway will likely structure most of the deals he makes this offseason.

    Whoever Elway decides to target, once he gets the guys in-house taken care of, it’s done with the goal to make sure the Broncos stay on their path to win from now on.

    If one of those players happens to be Bulaga, it would help solidify Manning’s decision to come back.

    Next: Should the Broncos Target Patrick Willis?

    Next: The Broncos need to keep an eye on Ndamukong Suh

    Dec 21, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Green Bay Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga (75) blocks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports