Through 14 games of the regular season, the Denver Broncos offensive line has quickly risen among rankings compared to other groups around the NFL due to multiple players emerging up front. Starting right guard Quinn Meinerz and left tackle Garett Bolles have specifically had very impressive seasons potentially worthy of an All-Pro selection. However, one player who does not receive nearly enough credit for the improvement he has showcased in 2023 is fourth-year center Lloyd Cushenberry.
The 26-year-old offensive lineman out of LSU has been Denver's second-best offensive lineman this season behind the multi-talented Quinn Meinerz and is statistically a current top-five center in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Cushenberry has surrendered just five quarterback pressures and no sacks since Week 6. Although he has been phenomenal in pass protection, his run blocking has not been great as of late compared to how well he was blocking in that area a few weeks ago. While he may be Denver's run blocker, he does make up for it by being the team's pass blocker up the middle for Russell Wilson.
Brad Spielberger of PFF recently projected Cushenberry to receive a four-year, $57.1M contract on the open market once free agency rolls around in March of 2024. Cushenberry, who will be an unrestricted free agent and will be free to asses all of his options in the offseason, is deserving of a massive contract given his elite play in 2023 however, that would not be possible for Broncos general manager George Paton to award him that amount.
According to Spotrac, the Denver Broncos are estimated to have $-20.9M in projected cap space in 2024. Especially if the Broncos decide to move on from Russell Wilson's contract, the team will be in financial trouble if they do not trade away a few veterans with expensive contracts. Therefore, a massive contract worth $14.25M a year for Cushenberry would likely be a massive overpay for the Broncos considering they also have depth pieces ready to make an impact.
New offensive line coach Zach Strief has been arguably Denver's best position coach this season and is an underrated reason for the jump the offensive line has made. With that being said, why can't seventh-round rookie Alex Forsyth make the jump in year two? Despite being outperformed by Cushenberry in training camp, that was expected considering the difference in pro experience between the two. However, for financial reasons, it may be smartest for the Broncos to let their veteran center walk in free agency and give their impressive 6-foot-4 center out of Oregon a chance to start in 2024.