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Why the Broncos are hosting interior offensive linemen Dylan Parham and Cole Strange ahead of 2022 NFL Draft

It looks like George Paton is considering more talent for an already crowded position group.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 05 Reese’s Senior Bowl
Cole Strange is the closest thing to a Quinn Meinerz in the 2022 draft.
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Denver Broncos are showing interest in three interior offensive linemen from the 2022 draft: Memphis’ Dylan Parham, Chattanooga’s Cole Strange, and Nebraska’s Cam Jurgens.

A three year starter at center for the Cornhuskers, Jurgens is a very good athlete who looks like a perfect fit for the pivot in a wide zone offense. He combines a mean streak with the hand placement to lock down his assignment on the move. He needs to get stronger and could have some growing pains in pass pro, but Russell Wilson mitigates those concerns. He could compete to start early in his career.

According to Sports Info Solutions, Parham’s started 51 games during his collegiate career at Kentucky, 28 games at left guard, 12 at right guard, and 11 at right tackle. He projects to the interior in the NFL and practiced at center in the Senior Bowl. He’s a good combo blocks with the footwork to become a very good pass protector.

Strange is the closest thing to a Quinn Meinerz in this draft class. He started 44 games during his career, 41 of them at left guard, two at left tackle, and one at center. He won the Jacobs Blocking Award in 2020 and 2021, which is given to the best offensive lineman in the Southern Conference. He was the eighth player in Chattanooga’s history to accept an invite to the Senior Bowl, and made an impression during his time in Mobile.

All three of the prospects are intriguing interior linemen and players that look like clean projections into the new coaching staff’s run scheme. What’s peculiar about the visits is that the Broncos only have 30 total, and at first glance there is little need to add to a crowded interior offensive line group.

Thanks to the addition of Ben Braden, Tom Compton, and Billy Turner to a room that already had Dalton Risner, Graham Glasgow, Lloyd Cushenberry, and Netane Muti, there’s a looming numbers crunch. At present the Broncos have seven linemen on the roster who are primarily guards or centers, and two of the competitors for the right tackle job also bring guard versatility.

In addition to the nine players above the Broncos also have Calvin Anderson and Garett Bolles, who both look like locks for the current roster. It’s unlikely the Broncos roster more than 10 linemen on the final 53 because of needs at other position groups, so adding a rookie interior offensive lineman could push a familiar veteran or even two off the roster in the preseason.

There are currently three players on the Broncos’ offensive line who are as close to locked in as it gets in April: Garett Bolles, Graham Glasgow, and Meinerz, who is in year two of a third round rookie contract. Beyond the fact all three are starting caliber players when healthy, the veterans carry enough dead money on their contract to make cutting them prohibitive. According to Over the Cap, Denver would eat at least $21 million if Paton cut Bolles, $6.1 million if he cut Glasgow.

In addition to the three above, I believe the trio of Calvin Anderson, Compton, and Turner are soft locks for the roster. Beyond the obvious fact they’re all useful players who can compete for right tackle, each is on a one year contract that carries enough dead money to be a net loss to move them. After them, it looks like there’s no guarantees for any of the remaining offensive lineman.

Dalton Risner has been the Broncos starting left guard since John Elway drafted him with the 41st pick in the 2019 draft. He’s also in the last year of his rookie deal with a new regime. Paton may decide to trade him for additional draft capital to help ease the cost of the Russell Wilson trade. Doing so would also create $2.79 million in cap space.

Lloyd Cushenberry and Netane Muti are the other veterans who could be moved. Both were members of Elway’s last draft class as general manager, Cushenberry a third round pick and Muti a sixth. Cush has been the Broncos’ starting center since his first camp broke and has missed one start over that time. He’s also struggled against more powerful players and could be miscast in a scheme that leans more heavily on outside zone. Moving the third year center before June would create $796,728 in cap space, afterwards the Broncos could save $1,033,272. Moving Muti could create at least $843,522 and as much as $895 thousand.

Of course I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Perhaps the Broncos don’t add a rookie lineman at all if the board doesn’t fall their way. It simply looks like they’re very interested based on the visits they’ve had so far, and they’re also in a situation where it could make sense to trade an expensive contract or two for draft capital.

To be perfectly clear, I believe it’s in the Broncos best interest to carry the best linemen they have into a 2022 campaign with Super Bowl aspirations. But it’s no guarantee Paton agrees.