Key Denver Broncos starter could be on thin ice in 2023

The Denver Broncos might have more of a "competition" at left tackle than meets the eye...

Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

I'm not saying, I'm just saying...The Denver Broncos could make a rather shocking move at the left tackle position in the coming weeks, but don't say we didn't tell you so.

Starting left tackle Garett Bolles doesn't appear to have much of a future in Denver after this season. At least, those are the optics as of right now. The Broncos are letting Bolles' contract -- signed in 2020 -- play out this season with a cap hit of $17.8 million (roughly). The Broncos didn't approach Bolles about a restructure of his contract despite there being some early trade buzz in the offseason surrounding the former first-round pick out of Utah.

Bolles had a really good 2020 campaign for the Broncos, but appeared to return to some bad habits in 2021 and 2022. He suffered a season-ending injury last year (broken leg) and the Broncos were left wondering what the future might hold at the position.

Bolles is currently under contract for 2024 with a cap hit of $20 million and a dead cap hit of just $4 million (in the form of a signing bonus that has already been paid). There's no way the Broncos are keeping Bolles at that cap number next offseason and in the interest of saving some cap space, should the Broncos just bite the bullet and move on now?

The team can save almost $14 million in cap space for 2023 as well as $16 million in cap space for 2024 by releasing Bolles now, even with $2 million of his 2023 salary already guaranteed. It might be a price the team is willing to pay after what we saw from Bolles in the preseason opener. Although he was undoubtedly knocking off some rust in his first game back from the injury he suffered last year, I can't help but think that Garett Bolles is on very thin ice right now with a new coaching staff.

The reason? Cam Fleming.

Fleming came back to Denver as a free agent in 2023 after shopping his services around to teams like Jacksonville and Miami. Fleming took visits with those clubs but ended up returning to the Denver Broncos on a contract with incentives.

With interest from other teams around the league, isn't it interesting that Fleming chose to come back to Denver on an incentive-laden deal? Fleming was listed on the Denver Broncos' initial depth chart as the primary backup at both left and right tackle. Then, in an interesting twist, the team decided to put Isaiah Prince out there with the first-team offense for the preseason opener as well as the days leading up to that game at practices.

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey is recovering from a minor injury, and is expected to be ready for the season opener against Las Vegas. For now, though, I think there might be some merit to the idea that Bolles could lose his job to Cameron Fleming, and the Broncos could decide to take the nearly $14 million in savings. Of course, this really all depends on how Bolles looks in practices and in the second preseason game. If the Broncos determine that he's going to be fine for the season, then he should play.

But with the team wanting to establish an identity in the running game, and Fleming being a superior run blocker than Bolles, that cap savings could make some sense and give the Broncos a lot of flexibility.

Fleming did a solid job last year as the Broncos left tackle in place of Bolles and the idea here is that perhaps the Broncos like Isaiah Prince as a swing tackle option, and perhaps young rookie Alex Palczewski as another developmental piece.


The team will have one eye on the future this year given how many veteran contracts could come off the books in 2023. Bolles is being paid like a top-tier left tackle but if he's not playing like one, why should the Broncos foot that nearly $18 million bill? I don't know that they will.

We could be shaping up for a shocking change at left tackle with the Broncos possibly moving on from Bolles quicker than expected.

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