Broncos offensive line: "A million combinations"

Jeff Gross

John Fox said during the Owners Meetings that the Broncos will try that many different offensive line lineups this offseason. So which pieces are the ones likely to move? How many combinations are really possible? Let's break it down.

At the Owners Meetings this week, regarding the offensive line, Broncos coach John Fox said, "We've got some options. We've got [T] Ryan Clady back. That makes us better instantly. I know we lost [G] Zane [Beadles] and we wish him nothing but the best. We may move somebody. You have young guys that have shown promise. There is [G] Ben Garland-whoever-that have been with us but haven't played a lot. We could move a guy in at left guard and put [T] Chris Clark at right tackle. There are a bunch of options and they will define how we go.

"The coaches will put together a plan," Fox continued. "You have to be flexible when you can only suit up seven [offensive linemen] per game at five positions. We'll work a million combinations. It took me a whole season for you guys to believe that [C] Manny Ramirez was our center (laughing)."

To our defense, Tom Nalen didn't believe it either, and he's someone who knows the center position pretty well.

But now that John Fox has my attention, two things have become clear - moving Orlando Franklin to left guard (the "guy" to which Fox refers) and playing Chris Clark at right tackle is a very real possibility, and there are probably other possibilities too we haven't yet considered. Hell, there might be 999,998 possibilities we haven't yet considered. So let's consider them. Let's look at Denver's offensive line roster to see what other possibilities there may be.

Left Tackle

Best Fit: Ryan Clady

Other Candidates: Chris Clark, Louis Vasquez

The only real option here is Ryan Clady, as long as he's healthy. Chris Clark did fabulous backup work in 2013, and since we're exploring millions of possibilities, Louis Vasquez is an All Pro guard who played left tackle in college. But this is Clady's job to lose.

Left Guard

Best Fit: Unknown

The Candidates: Manny Ramirez, Orlando Franklin, Louis Vasquez, Chris Clark, Ben Garland, Vinston Painter, Ryan Miller, more...

Man Ram could slide back over and fill in at left guard if the Broncos can find a center... Moving Franklin from right tackle is always an option... Vasquez can play either the left or right slot in a pinch, but it would be preferred to keep him at right guard... Clark played guard in college and could do that again, something that isn't quite talked about enough... If Garland steps up, it would be a coup to keep the rest of the o-line relatively unmoved... Vinston Painter, the Broncos' sixth round draft choice a year ago, played a bit of (right) guard in college... Ryan Miller is a guy the Broncos signed to a futures contract who played guard and tackle for Colorado.

Center

Best Fit: Manny Ramirez

Other candidates: Louis Vasquez, Ben Garland

There's no one on the Broncos' roster, as far as I can tell, that has starting center experience in the NFL or college except Manny Ramirez, who has just one year of experience. I have Vasquez here because Ramirez was a right guard who made the switch to center when needed. I have Garland here because, hey, if he can switch from defensive line to offensive line he can move to center.

Right Guard

Best Fit: Louis Vasquez

Other Candidates: See Left Guard

Louis Vasquez did not allow a sack in the 2013-14 campaign, giving the Broncos every reason to keep him right where he is.

Right Tackle

Best Fit: Orlando Franklin

Other Candidates: Chris Clark, Vinston Painter, Paul Cornick, Ryan Miller, Mike Farrell, Ramon Harewood

The two highest candidates are Franklin and Clark. Almost certainly, one of them will be the team's right tackle. The other has a good chance of being the starting left guard.

Some likely lineups

(Listed from left tackle to right tackle).

Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Chris Clark

A fan favorite lineup, it keeps Chris Clark on the football field while moving Franklin inside and into a safer position after he was exposed, to an extent, during the Super Bowl.

Ryan Clady, Chris Clark, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Orlando Franklin

This is one lineup not talked about enough. It keeps four of the Broncos' five starting linemen in place while keeping Clark on the field. Clark was an all-district guard in high school; it's been awhile since he played inside, but he has the strength and ability to do it.

Ryan Clady, Ben Garland, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Orlando Franklin

John Elway and John Fox both mentioned the possibility of Garland filling in at left guard. He's been around the Broncos enough and is certainly a player the Broncos like a lot. This puts Clark on the bench, but he's still a valuable backup to both left and right tackle. Or he could beat out Frankling at RT.

Adding other players

One thing is clear: as versatile as the Broncos are, the center position is one lacking depth. The Broncos will almost certainly add someone with center experience still this offseason, either through the draft or free agency. Former Redskins center Will Montgomery's visit didn't pan out, but there are still other free agents the Broncos could consider, including Steve Vallos, who was on the team in 2013. They could also find a center/guard in the middle rounds of the draft; if they find a top prospect and draft him early enough, that player could start at left guard or center as soon as his rookie year.

Which offensive lineup do you prefer? Do you have a favorite o-line lineup not covered here?

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