According to Mile High Sport's Benjamin Allbright, the Denver Broncos are expected to be among the teams trying to persuade soon to be free agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth to move on from the Bengals and sign with their team.
#Broncos will be one of the teams trying to get him to move on. https://t.co/Rc1joU2yeE— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) February 21, 2017
As we know, the Broncos may soon be in the market for a starting left tackle. The Broncos have until March 8th to pick up Russell Okung's one million dollar option. If they do that, it would activate a four-year, $48 million dollar contract that guarantees $20.5 million. If not, Okung would become a free agent and the Broncos would be on the look out for a starting left tackle once again.
If they decide against picking up Okung's option, it sounds like the Broncos will be eyeing Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth as a replacement...if they can convince him to sign with the Broncos.
Whitworth told The SiriusXM Blitz on Monday that he is "pretty positive" that he will return to the Bengals, but will listen to what other teams have to offer before making his final decision.
"I want to take advantage of the opportunity of being free and listen to what other people have to say," Whitworth said. "I think that's the right way to do it. I'm talking to the (Bengals). Hopefully we're going to work something out and for sure be back as a Bengal. That's where I'd love to end my career and love that opportunity to do that. But I also think it's smart to at least listen to other opportunities and make sure that you have your heart in the right place."
This is a smart approach for a veteran hitting the free agent market for the first time in his career. Whitworth has signed a bunch of contract extensions throughout his career so this is the first time he is able to test free agency. While he sounds like he is set on returning to the Bengals, he is leaving the door open for some General Manager to persuade him to leave the Bengals and join their team.
This is where Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway comes into play.
Elway has persuaded Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and others to join the Broncos organization, and sometimes for less money. He's the ultimate salesman and it sounds like he'll give Whitworth his best shot.
Another thing that goes in the Broncos favor is their winning culture. Whitworth is 35 years old and in the twilight of his career and would like to win a Super Bowl before he hangs them up. The Bengals are likely not Super Bowl contenders, and while the Broncos are not the contenders they were in year's past, they still are a playoff contender with an elite defense.
"At this point in my career, it's about the challenge, it's about the excitement of going to try to win that Super Bowl," Whitworth said. "That's what I want to do, so I want to make sure wherever it is I am - hopefully Cincinnati - that team is prepared to go try and fight for that trophy."
If the Broncos were able to persuade Whitworth to join their team, he would be an instant upgrade(on paper) at the left tackle position. He was Pro Football Focus's second highest rated tackle in the entire NFL this past season.
Highest-graded OTs:— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 21, 2016
1. Trent Williams, 92.4
2. Andrew Whitworth, 90.6
3. David Bakhtiari, 90.1
4. Jack Conklin, 89.5
5. Donald Penn, 88.5 pic.twitter.com/FCFUMMPtye
Now while he had an excellent 2016 season, his age is a concern. His skill can begin to decline anytime and when it happens, it can happen rapidly. So he would be a gamble, but if someone can squeeze out a solid 1 or 2 years out of him, it would be worth the signing.
If the Broncos decide to move on from Okung, Whitworth is their best and likely only option really on the free agent market. After Whitworth, Okung would likely be the next best option followed by some less talent and very risky options who will likely be downgrades from Okung. So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.