Denver Broncos Free Agency Wish List: Offensive Tackle


The Denver Broncos have a long list of items on the agenda for the 2015 offseason, but the top priority is going to be upgrading the offensive line significantly. John Elway said as much in his end of season presser, that protecting Peyton Manning (or the quarterback, whoever it is) will be of utmost importance this offseason, so we should and can expect the Broncos to be active in their pursuit of some of the top players available on the offensive line.

In particular, the Broncos have needs at right tackle and center, as well as left guard in case Orlando Franklin leaves via free agency. Franklin, a former right tackle, should be one of the top five priorities of in-house free agents for the Broncos to re-sign, and assuming he is, the Broncos should be able to get him at a decent price after a very good first season as left guard.

With that all said, the Broncos were — at best — a revolving door at the right tackle position. Starting off with Chris Clark, who is clearly much better on the left side than the right, the Broncos went through a list of players that included Paul Cornick and right guard Louis Vasquez.

Vasquez played extremely out of position, and while he held down the fort, that was about all he did. The Broncos failed to get even one snap out of third round pick Michael Schofield, which in my opinion is a major indictment on his development. It seems at this point like a wasted third round pick, but that is just a knee jerk reaction and not overly rational. The Broncos obviously have their reasons for keeping him out, but you’d think with all the shuffling at the position, he would have at least been given a shot.

With Schofield’s future in question, the Broncos have to look at tackles in free agency, and lucky for them, there are some guys who specialize in playing on the right side, starting with the top overall tackle in free agency (pre-cuts).

The Best (Maybe Unrealistic) Option — Bryan Bulaga, Packers

Bryan Bulaga would personally satisfy two major holes for the Broncos. First and foremost, he would fill the dire need for a starting right tackle, but he would also provide the Broncos with a long-awaited Iowa Hawkeyes player. They currently don’t have any Iowa players on the roster, which is a clear error.

All joking aside, Bulaga would be a major addition for the Broncos. He graded out this past season as one of the best pass blocking tackles in all of football and the 16th overall according to Pro Football Focus. He allowed just four sacks all season and had only five penalties. Blocking for Aaron Rodgers, it’s going to be tough to pry Bulaga out of Green Bay. I don’t know how likely it is, but it would be a big pickup for John Elway, for sure.

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The Coaching Connection — Derek Newton, Texans

Are you a dot connector? Do you feel like players follow coaches they are comfortable with around the league? If you believe in that kind of stuff, then Derek Newton is sure to be a Denver Bronco before all is said and done.

Newton, a right tackle by trade, graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 19th best offensive tackle in 2015, and among the top five in run blocking. The Broncos figure to move to a zone blocking scheme in 2015, something Newton should be familiar with.

He was much improved this past year after being graded as one of the five worst tackles in the NFL, but the former seventh round pick out of Arkansas State has earned himself a nice pay day.

This would be a risky move due to Newton’s injury history and the fact that he didn’t really play great until a contract year, but he has history with Gary Kubiak, would play in a favorable scheme, and fills a big need for the Broncos.

The stars might be aligned for this to happen.

The Big Name — Doug Free, Cowboys

Doug Free has certainly been a big topic of discussion for the Cowboys the last few years, nearly finding himself as a street free agent due to his cap number, but he stayed with the Cowboys and is now a free agent. The Cowboys are going to work hard to re-sign Free, but they might not be able to afford him and some other big name free agents, including receiver Dez Bryant.

Free is, aside from Bryan Bulaga, the biggest name among offensive linemen available this year, and he excelled as a leader in the clubhouse for the Cowboys this past year as well as in the running game. The Cowboys employed a lot of zone blocking to their running game, and Free was a huge part of DeMarco Murray having a big 2014 season.

Murray also, by the way, is a free agent.

Free graded out as the 21st overall tackle this past year, playing in 11 games.

The Dark Horse — Jeremy Parnell, Cowboys

Parnell will be 29 this season, but he’s emerged into a quality swing tackle for the Cowboys that might be ready for a starting role. He wouldn’t cost a ton of money, but the Broncos need to determine whether or not it’s worth risking on a possible swing tackle when they already have one of the best in the league in Chris Clark, even though he proved he wasn’t overly capable of starting at right tackle.

Parnell is a guy the Cowboys were high on, and for good reason. He played well in relief of Doug Free this past season, and the Cowboys felt like he could be ready for a bigger role.

Prediction — Derek Newton, Texans

The Broncos go for the bargain financially and the bargain in terms of being a pretty underrated player last season. They also go with someone that Gary Kubiak had a hand in drafting, he and Rick Dennison have coached, and someone who can step into the starting right tackle role immediately.

While Newton’s success didn’t come until he was in Bill O’Brien’s system, I still think he can be a really good starting right tackle for the Broncos and he has excellent size, run blocking ability, and is going to be 28 this season. Signing Newton to a four-year contract would put him in Denver until he is 32 and likely give you the prime of his career.

This would be a financially responsible move and it makes sense for the team.

Next: Orlando Franklin Key For Offense