10 weeks through the NFL season, the Denver Broncos offensive line has performed at a high level more often than not and deserves a lot of credit for bouncing back after a shaky start to the season. Heading into the new year, general manager George Paton and head coach Sean Payton formed a plan to retool the offensive line with talented run blockers in guard Ben Powers and tackle Mike McGlinchey.
In seeking out these talented players with a very friendly amount of cap space, the signings have directly impacted the overall performance of Denver's starting offensive line through eight games. The signing of left guard Ben Powers has been a tremendous upgrade over former guard Dalton Risner and has immensely helped relieve the pressure for starting center Lloyd Cushenberry. In the same instance, right tackle Mike McGlinchey has been a nice side-by-side compliment to right guard Quinn Meinerz, despite having some early struggles in pass protection. One thing we know for sure, the Broncos have a top-three run-blocking unit in the NFL.
Courtesy of Denver's additions on the offensive line this offseason, center Lloyd Cushenberry and guard Quinn Meinerz are having the best season of their respective careers and are statistically the highest-performing offensive linemen on the team. Therefore, the Broncos may have to find themselves getting ahead in the market and finding a common ground on a contract extension for the two young offensive linemen they drafted and developed.
Cushenberry, 25, has allowed just two quarterback hurries in 2023 which ranks second among all centers in the NFL. In his last three games, Cushenberry has not allowed a single pressure, hurry, or sack despite matching up against Chiefs defensive tackles Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi twice. Cushenberry has also not allowed a single sack all season, according to PFF, and has been penalized just once through 8 games.
Meinerz, turning 25 in a few days, has graded out at 76.8 by PFF through eight games (one of the best among all guards in the NFL) and has not allowed a single sack in 485 snaps. Run-blocking alone, he is Denver's best offensive lineman. Meinerz is seemingly always the lead blocker for running back Javonte Williams' big plays in the run game and is a big reason quarterback Russell Wilson has had success in play-action. It is certainly inevitable that either the Broncos or another team will award him a pricey extension considering how well he has played since entering the league in 2021.
Considering Lloyd Cushenberry has played like one of the best centers in football this season and has arguably been Denver's best offensive player, a contract extension seems likely and it is probable that it will not cost the Broncos much in cap room. The fourth-year center struggled with pass protection and injuries through the first three years of his rookie contract meaning that a massive contract extension seems unlikely at this point.
On the flip side, Meinerz has truly improved his pass protection every season since being drafted by the Broncos and has been the team's most talented and skilled run blocker for three years straight. Considering he has remained healthy for the majority of his career and the right guard position is difficult to come by, the Broncos may have to roll the dice and sign Meinerz to a contract extension while they let their center test free agency.
The Broncos are scheduled for $-20M in cap space in 2024 and have already invested tons of money into their offensive line meaning that it will be difficult to extend their two top offensive linemen in contract years. Denver's best bet may be trading 31-year-old veteran left tackle Garett Bolles in the offseason and resetting at the position through the draft. That way, the organization can clear up cap space and retain their two best offensive linemen while also becoming a younger unit simultaneously.