In a wild turn of events, the Denver Broncos seem to have the most talented and stable offensive line in the AFC West.
It can go without saying that 2020 was a historic year, and 2021, especially in the NFL world, seems to be heading that way too.
Selfishly, the most notable thing to come out of the offseason so far is the Denver Broncos offensive line within the division. All of a sudden, with the meteoric rise of Garret Bolles, and the 2019 acquisition of Mike Munchak, the Broncos’ offensive line situation is stable, in the scope of the NFL and within the AFC West.
Let’s break this down some more.
First, the Chargers.
They lost Mike Pouncey to retirement, and are slated to have Dan Feeney, Forrest Lamp, and Sam Tevi all hit the free agent market. Not only that, it was rumored that the Bolts have been shopping guard Trai Turner.
It is a very real possibility that the Chargers will have four or five new starters along the offensive line next year. Furthermore, their putrid line in 2020 allowed the 7th highest pressure rate in the NFL. The Chargers easily have the worst unit in the NFL.
Next, the Raiiiidddeeehhhsss. The Raiders’ offensive line, for years, was seen league-wide as a huge strength. Derek Carr also made life miserable for opposing defenses since he is quick to release the ball.
I’m not sure I, or we entirely expected the Raiders to overhaul their hogs this offseason, but so far, that has been the case.
The team recently released guards Gabe Jackson and Richie Incognito and traded tackle Trent Brown back to the Patriots. All of a sudden, one of the best units in the NFL is now a clear weakness, with three glaring holes.
With that said, there have been a plethora of offensive linemen who have hit the market already, so I am sure they could fill a hole or two via free agency, but the Raiders free agency in the Gruden-Mayock era has been poor, at best.
With several holes on their defense and now a few holes on their offensive line, the Raiders are poised to regress in 2021.
And now, for the grand finale, the Kansas City Chiefs. (Reminder, they got blown out in the Super Bowl by 58-year-old Tom Brady). The Chiefs just recently made a couple of moves along the offensive line, releasing longtime left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
Chiefs starting center Austin Reiter will be a free agent, and Von Miller’s son, Chiefs swing tackle Mike Remmers will also hit the open market. With Patrick Mahomes recently signing a massive extension, it was only a matter of time before a significant roster movement would need to take place.
The Chiefs do have high hopes for Lucas Niang, but he can only play one position, so they still have some work to do.
Now, for your Denver Broncos, who have a much clearer outlook on the offensive line.
Led by Garett Bolles, who did not allow a single sack this year, the Broncos also saw respectable play from their interior. Center Lloyd Cushenberry did have his rookie struggles, but he played every single snap, got better as the season went on, and is coached by Mike Munchak.
Furthermore, even with the opt-out of Ja’Wuan James, the Broncos still had above-average right tackle play from Demar Dotson, Elijah Wilkinson, and Calvin Anderson.
The Broncos apparently have faith in Anderson, which could lead to Wilkinson hitting the open market. Dotson is well into his 30s and is a backup at this point.
George Paton did say he expects James to return this year, but the Broncos would be wise to make a move for the future of their right tackle position.
Given the uncertainty with James and the inexperience of Anderson, I think the Broncos would be wise to sign a fringe starter in free agency or look to the draft for the future.
Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner are quality starters in the NFL, though they both had their struggles, mainly stemming from Cushenberry’s early-season hiccups.
One of the best possible outcomes for this unit is returning all of the starters. The chemistry they can continue to build, coupled with the expertise of Mike Munchak can yield a great unit.
I think it is all but guaranteed that the Broncos will start Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, and Graham Glasgow in week 1, but the right tackle spot does remain a mystery.
Even still, the Broncos now have the most talented and stable unit in the AFC West, which is loaded with premier pass rushers.
One thing former general manager John Elway left us with is a healthy cap and good pieces throughout the roster. George Paton does not have to make any sweeping changes at all.
The offensive line is applicable here, too. Garett Bolles’ contract is rather team-friendly, Risner and Cushenberry are still on rookie deals, and the Broncos can move off of Glasgow’s contract next year and turn to Netane Muti if they wanted to.
The future of the Broncos offensive line is promising, from a financial and talent standpoint, but our fellow division-mates cannot say the same thing.