With the news that right tackle Ja’Wuan James is opting out of the 2020 season, Denver finds themselves in a familiar spot - scrambling to fill the right tackle position.
Right off the bat, let me say, I don’t begrudge Ja’Wuan James or any other player for doing what they feel is best for themselves and their family, so let’s start there.
The focus for the Broncos now becomes filling the hole at right tackle as camp gets underway. Fortunately, they have a player in Elijah Wilkinson who started nearly all of last season, and played snaps at RT in 2018 as well.
All focus is on Elijah at RT and adding an FA— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) August 3, 2020
Wilkinson is the #1 candidate to slide in and bring continuity from last year, and the best case scenario for the Broncos would be Wilkinson and Bolles both playing all 16 games this year.
Joe Rowles and I talked through all the possible and likely scenarios on this week’s episode of Cover 2 Broncos and looked through three buckets for options either behind Wilkinson to provide depth, or compete for the starting right tackle spot.
For a refresher on Wilkinson’s tape, check out Joe Rowles’ piece from a few months ago breaking down Wilkinson.
Starting in the most unlikely order, Denver could potentially attempt to trade for a tackle.
One of the names that has been floated is potentially Riley Reiff in Minnesota. He has experience with Pat Shurmur, and the Vikings just drafted his potential replacement in Ezra Cleveland.
However, due to the decreased ramp up time for the season, I would think the Broncos would be exclusively looking at right tackles, as I just don’t see it being a good idea to this quickly ask a guy to switch sides. Additionally, the Vikings are in much more of a win-now mode than Denver, and wouldn’t likely give up their starter for an unproven rookie.
On that note, I think overall, I dislike the trade scenario because of where Denver is as a team heading into the season. They’re not a right tackle away from the Super Bowl or even the playoffs. The offense will likely take time to gel, and with all the potential volatility this season, parting with next year’s draft capital for a one year rental at tackle just doesn’t seem smart to me.
Name to potentially watch as a trade candidate for Denver - Chris Hubbard for the Browns.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) August 3, 2020
Played under Munchak in Pittsburgh and was recently relegated to a backup role in Cleveland with the arrival of Jack Conklin.
The one player I would entertain the idea on is Chris Hubbard, only if the trade capital was a 5th rounder or under. Hubbard is not a great player at all, but he has experience with Mike Munchak and was recently demoted by Cleveland so he could be on the block, theoretically.
The free agent market isn’t that much more attractive. The tackle situation across the entire league is not strong in general, so the fact that these guys all sit un-signed, particularly given the New England Patriots lost their right tackle a week ago and haven’t moved on any of these players should give you an idea of the league’s opinion of the options.
A couple names to watch as potential fits, though. Former Broncos Jared Veldheer, Demar Dotson (formerly with the Bucs), and Jordan Mills are all veteran options that Denver could kick the tires on for added depth.
There are also a couple options on the current roster of guys who could emerge under the tutelage of Mike Munchak. Calvin Anderson, who we recently broke down on Mile High Report’s roster review series, is an option as well as Jake Rodgers (whose roster review will be coming soon) who saw some action at the end of the season when Wilkinson went down.
Ultimately, while James not playing in 2020 was unexpected, Denver is set up well to fill the gap, given that they’ve recently gone through this. We’ll see if they make any moves to shore up the room, or roll with what they have.