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Free Agent Profile: Joe Thuney

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Should Denver choose to be big spenders in free agency, Joe Thuney is the best guard available.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The former New England Patriots’ 3rd round draft pick, OG Joe Thuney is set to hit the open market next month. The Patriots have already extended their other guard, Shaq Mason, and while he could potentially return, the feeling from most folks is that they will allow him to test the free agent market.

What kind of contract could he get

Thuney is still in his athletic prime, is coming off his best two seasons as a pro, and hasn’t missed a game so far in his career, which is nearly unheard of for an offensive lineman. So he should absolutely be in line to cash in big this free agency season.

One of the main comparisons for Thuney’s deal is the Andrew Norwell signing in the 2018 offseason when he was on the open market. Taking into account where the cap currently is, and other deals like Brandon Brooks’ extension, Thuney could easily command $15M+ per year, especially with the premium prices in free agency.

Why the Broncos should go after him

Denver will be in need of interior offensive line help, assuming they move on from Ronald Leary, should have significant dollars to spend in free agency if they choose, and Thuney is the top guard on the market (one could argue Scherff is, but Thuney isn’t coming off of injury).

Thuney just received a second-team All Pro nod for his 2019 season, and is only 27 years old. He played a big part in New England’s ground game resurgence which eventually led them to a Super Bowl victory in the 2018 season.

I know each metric that tries to quantify offensive line play falls a bit short and can’t paint the whole picture, but ESPN using NextGen Stats player tracking has come up with what they call Pass Block Win Rate, the amount of times an offensive lineman held their block on a passing play for 2.5 seconds or more.

Joe Thuney ranked #2 overall last season in this metric among NFL guards.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/27584726/nfl-pass-blocking-pass-rushing-rankings-2019-pbwr-prwr-leaderboard

Denver, by contrast, ranked 27th in the NFL as a team in this metric. While that’s not all on Denver’s guard play, it’s clear the Broncos can use all the help they can get on the offensive line, especially as they look to build around Drew Lock.

Why the Broncos shouldn’t go after him

Cost. The only reason I’m not pounding the table more for Thuney is I think he is going to be paid very very handsomely, as he deserves. While Denver technically can afford it, I’m not sure getting into a bidding war for the top of the market guard is where they should focus their resources, especially when there are other options out there (which we’ll get into as this series continues).

The counter to that would be that if Denver is considering spending ~$10M on Connor McGovern, they should just go all out and spend on a truly elite interior offensive lineman for a few million more, and then draft a center.

Final Word

As much as I think Denver needs to focus on upgrading the trenches this offseason, I don’t know that Thuney is the way to do that, based on his cost in free agency.

If there was one area Denver wants to splurge, I think Thuney is as good as you’re going to get in terms of top level free agents, and having he and Risner together would transform Denver’s running attack.

As good as Risner was at pulling on power and counter plays last year, having the option to pull either of your guards and run those plays from either direction would take Denver’s offense to the next level, as well as give Drew Lock a solid interior of a pocket to step up into.

In fact, the more I talk about it, the more I like it. I may have just talked myself into this. We’ll see what happens when free agency opens up, but there are certainly worse places Denver could spend their money.