Broncos depth chart: What is the team’s ideal offensive line for 2021?

Jun 1, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos lineman Quinn Meinerz (77) (center) during organized team activities at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 1, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos lineman Quinn Meinerz (77) (center) during organized team activities at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos made some substantial moves on both sides of the ball in 2021 and one area of the team expected to be an area of strength this season is the offensive line. Although it’s expected to be a strength, building off of a very solid 2020 campaign as a whole despite some injuries, the Broncos depth chart is unsettled heading into 2021 training camp.

One major reason for the uncertainty on the offensive line? The departure of 2019 free agent acquisition Ja’Wuan James. James was released by the Broncos after suffering an Achilles injury and he wound up signing a two-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Broncos are used to James not being available at this point, so his departure came early enough that the team was actually able to plan around it this time instead of having to scramble.

The Broncos’ depth chart on the offensive line won’t be changing at the left tackle position after Garett Bolles’ breakout 2020 season. The team invested heavily in Bolles and is obviously banking on the former first-round pick keeping up with the good habits he established in 2020 as one of the league’s best left tackles last season.

At the left guard position, Dalton Risner doesn’t seem to be in any danger of losing his starting job and is now entering his third season for the Denver Broncos as a former second-round pick out of Kansas State.

How will the rest of the Denver Broncos depth chart on the offensive line work out?

Maybe a better question is — what is the ideal alignment.

It starts with Bolles at the left tackle and Risner really seizing that left guard spot. The other three spots could be up for grabs.

Second-year center Lloyd Cushenberry III was a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and was widely heralded as the top center in the entire class. It seemed the Broncos had a steal on their hands but Cushenberry had his fair share of struggles as a rookie.

The team used a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on Quinn Meinerz, a self-taught center who really impressed at the Senior Bowl and blew scouts away with his athleticism, power, and flat out dominance.

Meinerz will be competing for that center spot, and Graham Glasgow is going to have to fend off another big, powerful, athletic player in Netane Muti to keep his starting job.

At right tackle, the Broncos replaced Ja’Wuan James by going out and signing veterans Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming, but Calvin Anderson and Quinn Bailey will also have a chance to get some reps there.

Broncos depth chart: The ideal offensive line alignment

Not every NFL team is working toward this, but it would be really cool to have an entirely home-grown offensive line.

The Broncos drafted Garett Bolles and Dalton Risner, so the left side of the line should be set with a couple of high draft choices who should have long NFL futures.

One way or another, a Denver Broncos third-round pick is going to be starting at the center position. Lloyd Cushenberry III and Quinn Meinerz would both be exciting options no matter which one wins the job, though it would be at least a bit disappointing if Cushenberry went from starter to backup.

At right guard, I would say it’s ideal for one of Netane Muti or Quinn Meinerz to start there. The Denver Broncos could add almost $9 million in cap space by trading Graham Glasgow, and if one of Muti or Meinerz can prove worthy of that job in camp, wouldn’t you want the younger, cheaper option?

At the right tackle position, the same logic applies. The ideal scenario for the Denver Broncos is to have one of Quinn Bailey or Calvin Anderson win the job outright over Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming.

If the goal is an entirely home-grown, developed-in-house offensive line, this is the ideal alignment:

  • LT Garett Bolles
  • LG Dalton Risner
  • C Lloyd Cushenberry III/Quinn Meinerz
  • RG Netane Muti
  • RT Calvin Anderson/Quinn Bailey

If the Broncos’ hope is to avoid trading Glasgow and that one of the veterans they signed returns to their peak form, the ideal line would look like this:

  • LT Bolles
  • LG Risner
  • C Cushenberry/Meinerz
  • RG Graham Glasgow
  • RT Bobby Massie/Cameron Fleming

The Broncos may be in no hurry to insert every young player into the lineup to start immediately.

Their play will dictate whether that happens or not, but I think the team can realistically say it would be content with a variety of “ideal” scenarios for the Broncos depth chart/offensive line alignment, and if all of these guys play well, they would simply have enviable depth all over.