The Denver Broncos are bringing Gino Gradkowski back into the fold at center after Matt Paradis’ season-ending injury against the Texans.
The Denver Broncos needed a center to get the ball to Peyton Manning in the 2015 season, the first season of Gary Kubiak’s time as head coach of the team.
Kubiak and John Elway decided a veteran player was needed to come in and compete with only an untested former sixth-round draft pick on the roster, so they traded for Gino Gradkowski of the Baltimore Ravens.
Elway ended up giving the Ravens a fourth-round pick for Gradkowski, in what would prove to be one of his worst moves as general manager of the team.
The starting center position that year was won by the untested former sixth-round draft pick — Matt Paradis — who had spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad. Paradis, four seasons later, has established himself as one of the best centers in the NFL while Gradkowski played a backup/spot starter role on a couple of different teams.
Now, Gradkowski is being brought into the fray to help replace the player who once replaced him in the Broncos’ starting lineup.
Denver will go with Connor McGovern at the center position, somewhat of an extended audition for him as the Broncos will be forced to decide whether or not to make Paradis a long-term contract offer after the season, or if he will walk free.
It’s unlikely Gradkowski will make any significant impact unless McGovern plays so poorly the team simply cannot take it, or if McGovern is hurt.
A former fourth-round draft pick out of Delaware, the 30-year old Gradkowski hasn’t played meaningful football snaps since 2016 (with the Carolina Panthers). He was most recently a backup with the New York Jets.
The Broncos’ offensive line has struggled to stay healthy this season with Ron Leary and Matt Paradis now on injured reserve and Jared Veldheer missing a good chunk of the season already.