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Understanding the Broncos’ 2022 free agent offensive line signings

Why George Paton got the guys he got

NFL: Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos have been struggling to find a long-term starter at right tackle since what feels like forever. The last guy to start regularly at right tackle for the Broncos two years in a row was Orlando Franklin in 2012 and 2013. So during free agency, George Paton has now signed three guys all of whom could be potential starters at right tackle: Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton and Billy Turner.

The two guys who got most of the snaps at right tackle for the 2021 Broncos were both free agents, but they were not brought back to Denver, presumably because they do not fit the offensive scheme that Nathanial Hackett and Justin Outten will use.

Turner was the starting right tackle for the Packers last season and played under Hackett. Turner was average (or a little below average) for starting right tackles in the league in 2021, according to PFF.

Right Tackle 2021 Team Draft Spot 2021 PFF Grade 2021 OFF Snap% Age
Tristan Wirfs Buccaneers 13 84.6 100% 23
Ryan Ramczyk Saints 32 84.1 60% 28
Lane Johnson Eagles 4 82.4 73% 32
La'el Collins Cowboys UDCFA 82.0 55% 29
Rob Havenstein Rams 57 81.5 88% 30
David Quessenberry Titans 176 80.6 100% 32
Braden Smith Colts 37 80.6 64% 26
Jack Conklin Browns 8 78.8 33% 28
Trent Brown Patriots 244 77.6 44% 29
Taylor Moton Panthers 64 77.5 100% 28
Penei Sewell Lions 7 77.0 94% 22
Samuel Cosmi Commanders 51 74.9 42% 23
Brian O'Neill Vikings 62 73.7 100% 27
Cameron Fleming Broncos 140 71.7 26% 30
George Fant Jets UDCFA 71.1 82% 30
Morgan Moses Jets 66 71.0 94% 31
Dennis Kelly Packers 153 70.4 27% 32
Bobby Massie Broncos 112 70.0 74% 33
Mike McGlinchey 49ers 9 69.8 43% 27
Daryl Williams Bills 102 67.5 98% 30
Riley Reiff Bengals 23 67.3 65% 34
Brandon Shell Seahawks 158 67.0 56% 30
Marcus Cannon Texans 138 66.6 20% 34
Billy Turner Packers 67 66.2 73% 31
Alejandro Villanueva Ravens UDCFA 65.2 97% 34
Lucas Niang Chiefs 96 64.6 44% 24
Chukwuma Okorafor Steelers 92 63.6 92% 25
Kelvin Beachum Cardinals 248 63.4 81% 33
Matt Peart Giants 99 63.0 38% 25
Kaleb McGary Falcons 31 62.8 94% 27
Germain Ifedi Bears 31 61.8 37% 28
Larry Borom Bears 151 61.4 56% 23
Jawaan Taylor Jaguars 35 60.4 100% 25
Nate Solder Giants 17 60.3 84% 34
Storm Norton Chargers UDCFA 60.2 90% 28
Blake Hance Browns UDCFA 56.7 58% 26
Justin Herron Patriots 195 56.7 37% 27
Charlie Heck Texans 126 56.0 78% 26
Brandon Parker Raiders 65 55.8 77% 27
Jake Curhan Seahawks UDCFA 54.0 41% 24
Jesse Davis Dolphins UDCFA 52.5 92% 31
Matt Nelson Lions UDCFA 50.8 61% 27
Jordan Mills Saints 163 47.8 20% 32
Trenton Scott Panthers UDCFA 39.6 29% 28

Turner was one of the better right tackles in the league in 2021 in terms of pass block and run block win rate. According to ESPN, only three right tackles had a better PBWR: Patrick Mekari, Lane Johnson and Ryan Ramczyk. Notice where Bobby Massie is on this plot.

Depending on which site you trust more, he either allowed one sack (SIS) or three sacks (PFF) while getting called twice for holding and playing 73% of the offensive snaps. Turner played in either 810 or 761 snaps while starting 13 regular season games. According to PFF, Turner was terrible initially while he was a Bronco. Turner was on the Broncos for part of 2016 and all of 2017 and 2018. He played very little in 2016 and 2017 partly because he was still learning how to play in the NFL. His PFF grades for 2016 and 2017 were 32.2 and 41.5. He was a starter for the Broncos in 2018 and had an overall PFF grade of 64.4 which was a dramatic improvement for him. At least for 2021 that would have put him a little below average. His best overall PFF grade in his career was 69.2 (2019). He is not flashy, but he is competent and durable. I expect him to be the starter at right tackle for the 2022 Broncos. Turner played every offensive snap for the Packers in 2019 and 2020.

Tom Compton was the other free agent tackle/guard that did not play for the 2021 Broncos. Compton, like Turner, played at the FCS level in college (South Dakota). The Broncos will be his seventh NFL team in nine seasons. He was drafted in the 6th round by Washington in 2012. He definitely fits the mold of lighter/quicker offensive linemen that Hackett and Outten (and Paton) seem to be getting in free agency. Compton is listed at 6-6, 315. Anderson is 6-5, 300, and Turner is 6-5, 310. Compton has started 44 NFL games, but he’s never started more than 14 in any season. He started seven for the 49ers in 2021.

According to SIS, Compton was terrible in 2021. He allowed a league-high 11 sacks on only 291 pass blocking snaps. PFF says he only allowed four sacks. Even if PFF is correct, that’s still a fairly bad pass blocking snap per sack number. Compton is an elite run blocker and a terrible pass blocker, but PFF apparently likes him, giving him an astounding overall grade of 86.5 in 2021. For content, Jordan Mailata of the Eagles was the third best offensive tackle in the league in 2021 and he had an overall PFF grade of 88.3. The third best guard by PFF grade was Michael Onwenu with a grade on 86.7. So PFF thinks Compton is elite. PFF is full of it.

Compton will never be an elite player in the NFL. Elite players don’t bounce around the league like he has. Compton does have one skill that is elite. He is an elite zone blocking offensive lineman. It will be interesting to see how he is used in the offense if he is not needed to start. I could see him plugged in at guard if Dalton Risner is traded or if Graham Glasgow is injured. I could also see him getting some snaps as a 6th offensive lineman in short yardage and goalline situations.

According to SIS, Compton had 16 blown blocks while pass blocking in 2021 and only two while run blocking. He played 255 run block snaps and 291 pass block snaps.

The somewhat forgotten offensive lineman that the Broncos picked up in free agency is Ben Braden. Braden is larger relative to the tackles we signed (Braden is a guard). He’s 6-6, 329 and has played in the NFL for four years. He’s never started an NFL game and has played a grand total of eight offensive snaps in his NFL career. He’s probably a guy that Hackett and Outten are familiar with who they brought in as cheap veteran depth for the interior OL. Since veterans can be placed on the practice squad, I would not be surprised to see Braden on the practice squad despite being 28 years old.

While the Broncos have a decently full offensive line group right now, I would still expect the team to draft a developmental tackle (or two) in this draft. The Broncos still have not taken an offensive tackle in the draft since Garett Bolles in 2017. Dalton Risner does not count because he has never played a snap at tackle in the NFL. There are plenty of quality offensive tackles in this draft, so it’s a good time to need offensive tackles. Neither Turner (who was signed for one year) or Compton are the long-term solution at right tackle. At this point, I doubt that Anderson is either, but I would like to be proven wrong on that.

The Broncos have also brought in or retained some training camp guys who will most likely never play an NFL snap. The roster currently shows fifteen offensive lineman. We will keep seven or eight on the 53 (55?)-man roster for 2022. The rest will either end up on the practice squad or not with the Broncos.

Player Pos
Lloyd Cushenberry III C
Ben Braden G
Graham Glasgow G
Zack Johnson G
Netane Muti G
Dalton Risner G
Quinn Meinerz G/C
Calvin Anderson T
Quinn Bailey T
Garett Bolles T
Cody Conway T
Drew Himmelman T
Casey Tucker T
Billy Turner T
Tom Compton T/G

Poll

Which fringe offensive lineman has the best chance of being a major contributor for the 2022 Broncos?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Ben Braden
    (48 votes)
  • 15%
    Tom Compton
    (251 votes)
  • 37%
    Calvin Anderson
    (585 votes)
  • 34%
    Netane Muti
    (543 votes)
  • 5%
    Quinn Bailey
    (83 votes)
  • 0%
    Cody Conway
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Drew Himmelman
    (44 votes)
  • 0%
    Zack Johnson
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Casey Tucker
    (8 votes)
1570 votes total Vote Now