With the NFL's biggest shopping spree is set to kick off in less than 48 hours, rumors surrounding this years' free agency period are already making waves across various media outlets. As expected, tidbits regarding the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos are beginning to circulate.
According to Bleacher Report's Jason Cole, the Denver Broncos are expected to sign a top tier offensive lineman in the free agency period if defensive end Malik Jackson pursues greener pastures. Today, reports surfaced that Jackson will indeed be joining the Jacksonville Jaguars and has agreed in principal to a six-year deal that will make him the fourth highest paid defensive lineman in the NFL.
Though no names are given, the word 'serious' would seem to imply one of the best on the market, such as Alex Mack, Russell Okung or Mitchell Schwartz.
The Broncos would have to fork over some serious coin to obtain any of the aforementioned players, who are likely to command at least $8.5 million dollars annually on the open market. With plenty of teams in desperate need of offensive line help and tens of millions of dollars to spend, don't be surprised to see the average value per year go up significantly.
Here is why it might be true
Unquestionably, the inconsistency of the offensive line during the 2015 was the biggest glaring concern for the team and is a concern moving forward. The teams' initial line-up went out the window when left tackle Ryan Clady tore his ACL and 2015 second-round pick Ty Sambrailo tore his labrum early on in the season, both injuries resulting in season ending injured reserve designation.
Certainly, the Broncos are in a precarious position on their offensive front and a big change in identity is very likely. Starting left guard Evan Mathis and versatile tackle Ryan Harris are scheduled to hit free agency and aren't guarantees to come back to the team. Additionally, Veteran guard Louis Vasquez was hampered by injuries all season long and was released by the team earlier today and saved $6.25 million dollars in cap space.
Moreover, the team is currently negotiating a restructure (pay cut) for Clady, and if a desired amount isn't agreed to he may be cut from the squad. Additionally, second-year player Michael Schofield's play left a lot to be desired, though the front office still believes in him and thinks he has a bright future with the franchise.
As of right now, the only sure-fire bets for next season seem to be up and coming players Max Garcia, Matthew Paradis and a healthy Sambrailo returning from injury. That would leave two open spots on the roster that need to be addressed in order to improve their efficiency as a unit and according to General Manager John Elway, is an area where improvement and additions are necessary.
"Obviously that's an area where we need to get better. That's going to be a focal point for us this year as we go into free agency as well as the draft." — Broncos General Manager John Elway at the NFL Scouting Combine
The team has scouted offensive lineman and interviewed several over the off-season process, so there is no disputing the fact that they will find a way to upgrade the line. With Elway at the helm, you can expect greatness and believe he will do whatever it takes to improve the offensive line for 2016.
Here is why it might not be true
As always, it is important to take any rumor prior to the advent of free agency with a grain of salt. Questioning the validity of the source is paramount when investigating the reality or likelihood of such matters. Cole has his fair share of misses regarding the Broncos over the years, so I would caution getting overly excited about the rumor.
Also keep in mind that the Broncos do not have as much cap space available as other teams, which may inhibit their ability to get into a bidding war over a prized free agent lineman. According to Over The Cap, the Broncos currently have around $17 million dollars in cap space. That figure includes the recent tenders extended to Brandon Marshal and C.J. Anderson and today's group of cuts.
More space could be on the way with restructures to players like Clady, DeMarcus Ware and a few others, which would definitely help the Broncos in their pursuit of a top tier free agent offensive lineman.
Likelihood of this happening
In my eyes, it is truly a toss-up.
Denver certainly will have to improve its offensive line in free agency and the draft. The releases of Louis Vasquez, Aaron Brewer and Owen Daniels have created roughly $8.5M dollars in cap space for the Broncos, which could definitely go towards a premier offensive lineman, but that money could go towards retaining Brock Osweiler first and foremost.
Remember, Denver will be competing with dozens of other teams and preliminary numbers surfacing for some of the big names listed above could pose a problem for them being aggressive in that regard. But as we have seen off-season after off-season, Elway has made big moves nobody expected in order to bolster the teams ability to compete now and from now on.
Here is to hoping he can work his magic once more and bring a top flight offensive lineman to the team once free agency begins.