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Free Agent profile: Center Brian Allen

Lloyd Cushenberry improved in 2021. But with the Broncos suddenly thrusted into Super Bowl contention for likely years to come, should Brian Allen be brought aboard? 

NFL: Super Bowl LVI-Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals
Brian Allen is one of the better options at center in the 2022 free agent market.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Allen, a 26-year-old fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft by the Los Angeles Rams and now Super Bowl champion, is an above-average center in the 2022 free agent pool, which also boasts Jason Kelce, Ryan Jensen and Ben Jones.

Allen’s an upgrade over Cushenberry but he’ll be much more expensive than Cushenberry’s current rookie contract; the Bronco will make just north of $1.2 million in 2022. Broncos General Manager George Paton’s perception of “win-now” versus how quickly he thinks Cushenberry has developed will determine if Allen sports orange and blue next season.

Player Profile

Height: 6-2
Weight: 303 pounds
Age: 26
Experience: 4 years

Why it makes sense

Allen, put simply, is a clear upgrade over Cushenberry. The Pro Bowl alternate logged an 80.2 PFF grade compared to Cushenberry’s 64.2. While Cushenberry’s grade increased by 23.7 points from 2020, the Broncos are officially set to win immediately — unlike they were less than one week ago — with the acquisition of quarterback Russell Wilson. Any below-average cracks in the offensive line will come to light with Denver in the national spotlight once again.

The most glaring common denominator Wilson dealt with in Seattle? A below-average offensive line. Over that last 10 years, Wilson’s been sacked 427 times, the most among all quarterbacks in that span. If Denver wants to prevent its new, shiny Super Bowl-winning QB from experiencing the same fate all over again, an O-line that’s heavily invested in is crucial.

Why it doesn’t made sense

Super Bowl-winning players typically get overpaid in free agency in the subsequent offseason. Broncos fans know this well: Malik Jackson signed a six-year, $85.5 million contract with Jacksonville following Denver’s Super Bowl 50 win, only to produce 6.5 sacks in 16 games in 2016. The Buccaneers changed that in 2021, managing to keep all 22 Super Bowl starters, but it’ll be interesting what the market’s price tag is on the Rams’ free agents. If it’s anything like the market was after Denver most recently hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, Allen’s price may drive Denver out of contention for his services.

Allen isn’t the best pass blocker — he posted a 63.5 pass-blocking PFF grade in 2021 compared to 87.4 for run blocking. Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett will want to air it out with his new toy at quarterback, but this won’t be doable with up-the-middle pressure — just ask Tom Brady about his experience facing Denver’s interior pressure in the 2015 AFC Championship Game.

Final thoughts

While Allen is definitely considered an upgrade at center, Denver would be better served to allocate it’s resources elsewhere. Expect Allen to garner deals between $6 million-$8 million per year; expect Denver to prioritize fortifying its right tackle position when free agency begins.


Should the Broncos target Brian Allen in free agency?

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