Orlando Franklin Crucial to Broncos Offseason Puzzle


Most consider Demaryius Thomas the most important piece to the Denver Broncos’ offseason puzzle.

They surmise teams cannot let a wide receiver like Thomas hit the open the market. One of the best receivers in the game has to get inked to a long-term deal and the Broncos cannot think twice about it. If that deal is not struck, Denver must place the franchise tag on Thomas to assure he stays in the Mile High City.

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You won’t get any argument from me, as you shouldn’t. Thomas is one of the best wide outs in the NFL. One has to place him on the short list of guys right behind Calvin Johnson. That’s how good Thomas is. He also showed it’s not just because of Peyton Manning either. For those who don’t know, Thomas had success with one Tim Tebow.

However, there’s one free agent who is just as important as Thomas – offensive lineman Orlando Franklin. One could make the case he’s more important than Thomas. Color me as one of those. The biggest and most glaring issue with the Broncos last season was the offensive line.

The were two consistent facets for that unit: Franklin was the best player and inconsistent play. The line wasn’t awful but it wasn’t good either. It was just blah. Aside from Franklin that is.

He was the highest graded Broncos player by Pro Football Focus from the disgraceful playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Too many people put way too much emphasis on PFF but this is one instance it’s telling.

Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos guard Orlando Franklin (74) pass rushes during the first quarter of the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Franklin has to get signed, and keep him at left guard. When the Broncos do that it allows them to target the best tackle on the free agent market, Bryan Bulaga. If the right tackle does hit the market, John Elway better get him locked up as he did guard Louis Vasquez.

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With Franklin extended, Denver would have the guard position solidified; especially if Bulaga is signed since Vasquez would move back to right guard. Those two moves take what was a severe problem for the Broncos and transforms into it a strength.

The organization needs to do everything it can to make sure Manning doesn’t get touched next season. At the least the goal is to make him the least hit quarterback in the league. The new zone-blocking scheme will help. Having C.J. Anderson fit the ideal running back for that system helps. But what ensures that happens is to have the best offensive line the Broncos can buy.

That makes the move to get Franklin extended and back at Dove Valley paramount for Denver. Even if that means Thomas has to play second fiddle for a few days.

If Elway and the Broncos want to win the Super Bowl, Franklin is the most important piece to their offseason puzzle.

Next: Rahim Moore appears finished in Denver - who could be his replacement?

Next: Who will John Elway target as his must-have free agents?

Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) is congratulated by guard Orlando Franklin (74) after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports