Surprise players who have filled longstanding needs for Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos general manager George Paton. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos general manager George Paton. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
2 of 4
Bobby Massie, Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos offensive tackle Bobby Massie (70) and center Lloyd Cushenberry (79) and guard Dalton Risner (66) lead the team out of the tunnel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Bobby Massie, RT

The right tackle position is one of two positions that has been a major Achilles Heel for the Denver Broncos for quite some time.

Year after year, the Broncos seemed to swap out different right tackles because the previous one just wasn’t the answer.

After less than a full-year’s worth of games, Massie seems to be the best option the team has had at right tackle in a long, long (LONG) time. You hardly hear his name being called, and as an offensive lineman, that’s the best thing that can happen.

Massie did miss Weeks 11 and 12, but other than those two games, he has played in the majority of the Broncos’ snaps. The only game he missed time in was against the Dallas Cowboys, where he played only 35 percent of those offensive snaps.

The Broncos signed Massie as well as Cam Fleming this past offseason and appear to have chosen the right player to be their starter at right tackle.

Let’s take a look at some of those names since, let’s say, 2015.

Louis Vasquez: 2015 was the final year of Louis Vasquez with the Broncos. He spent three seasons with the team (2013-2015). Vasquez played every single snap in his first two seasons with the Denver Broncos. He only missed one-percent of the team’s snaps in his third year with the team and played in 79 percent in his last year.

Vasquez missed just one game in three seasons and played 3,199 total snaps in those three years following four years with the then-San Diego Chargers.

Vasquez was named as an All-Pro by four different voters in 2013: Pro Football Weekly, Pro Football Writers, Associated Press, and Pro Football Focus.

Michael Schofield: This one is simple: In two seasons as a starter with the Broncos, Schofield allowed 12 sacks, including ten in 2015, the Broncos Super Bowl 50 season. Schofield has been able to stick around the league, however, with the Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers.

Donald Stephenson: The Broncos signed Stephenson to a three-year contract in 2016, including $10 million in guaranteed money. He would end up committing 11 penalties and surrendering four sacks in his first year with the team. In 2017, he allowed 3 sacks and committed 2 penalties.

The Broncos decided to move on from Stephenson after the 2017 season. Stephenson was beat out by Cyrus Kouandijo. Who? Exactly.

Stephenson played in 20 games for the Broncos in two seasons. Having Stephenson on the roster was a waste of time.

Menelik Watson: Oh boy, this is a rough one. Watson was a free-agent signing by John Elway in 2017 from the Oakland Raiders, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2013. Watson tied with at least one other player for second-most sacks allowed with nine.

Watson spent just one full season with the Denver Broncos. Watson suffered a pectoral injury that ended his 2018 season. The Broncos released him just a couple of weeks after the injury.

Jared Veldheer: Veldheer was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2010 and spent four years there before spending five with the Arizona Cardinals and then being traded to the Broncos. He played 704 snaps for the Broncos in his lone year with the team, surrendering just two sacks and committing eight penalties.

When the Broncos acquired Veldheer, they were getting a player with eight years of experience in return for just a sixth-round pick.

Elijah Wilkinson: Wilkinson spent four years with the Broncos from 2017 to 2020. Wilkinson started 26 of his 45 games played with the team. He gave up four sacks in 2018, a ten-piece in 2019, and two in 2020.

Wilkinson provided some flexibility, being able to play both tackle and guard, but he ended up breaking his shinbone. The Broncos let Wilkinson walk, and he signed with the Chicago Bears this past offseason.

Demar Dotson: Demar Dotson played in just eight games for the Broncos in his lone season with the team. He had one false start and three declined penalties with the team in that year, while giving up zero sacks in 451 total offensive snaps.

The probable reason for the Broncos not bringing Dotson back despite his disciplined play on the offensive line is because of his age. Dotson turned 36-years old in October. The Broncos wanted a long-term answer at the position.

Ja’Wuan James: Oh yes, that Ja’Wuan James. The Ja’Wuan James that suffered a leg injury in his first year with the team. James was signed by the Broncos to a $51 million contract over four years but played just three games for the team. He tried returning but was injured again.

James opted out of the 2020 season which ultimately continued a long hatred by Broncos Country. He suffered a Achilles injury, which led to the team ultimately moving on from him and creating issues between him and the team involving money.

James was signed by the Baltimore Ravens after the Broncos let him go, and it’s possible that he will actually play at some point this year.