This offseason, newly hired head coach Sean Payton put an emphasis on improving the Denver Broncos' offensive line. It is a unit that has consistently struggled in the past and has had a revolving door of mediocre talent come in and out at right tackle. So, in his first offseason with the team, he made sure to improve the line the best he could.
During free agency, the Broncos made two big splashes very early in the legal tampering period. First, they agreed to terms with former Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Powers and quickly after that, they agreed to terms with San Francisco 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey. This gave the Broncos two new very good starters and they quickly improved their offensive line. On top of that, they’re getting back Garett Bolles who missed a majority of the season due to a broken leg, and have returning starters, center Lloyd Cushenberry III and Quinn Meinerz returning as well. So, on paper, this unit looks much improved and has been continuously ranked within the top 10 in offseason offensive line rankings this offseason.
While the starters look great on paper, the depth behind them is suspect at best and will need to prove themselves during training camp and the preseason.
Now, let us take an in-depth look at the Broncos' offensive line ahead of the start of training camp.
Garett Bolles - Left tackle - 6-foot-5, 300 pounds
During the Broncos tough to watch Thursday Night Football game vs. the Indianapolis Colts their longtime left tackle Garett Bolles suffered a broken leg which ended his season. Now, he enters his seventh season with the Broncos and will look to continue to block quarterback Russell Wilson’s blindside. However, this year he has two new teammates, another new head coach, and a first-time offensive line coach who played under Sean Payton during his time with the Saints. So, things are going to be different, but head coach Sean Payton told reporters that Bolles has been very impressive this offseason.
“He’s doing well. Obviously, he’s putting in the time with the rehab and the recovery. That room is completely changed. If there was one position group [that was like] that show, Complete Home Makeover, that would be that position group. I think the relationships and all the things that go into play in that position, he’s been very impressive. Then there’s a new offense, terminology, and all those things that go along with it, but I’ve been really pleased.”
With the Broncos expected to run the ball more, this could play to Bolles strengths as a run blocker. He is an athletic tackle who can move well while also be a mauler in the run game. So, hopefully, he can excel there while also protecting quarterback Russell Wilson’s blindside on a consistent basis.
Mike McGlinchey - Right tackle - 6-foot-8, 315 pounds
During free agency, the Denver Broncos made a major splash in free agency when they signed former San Francisco 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey to a massive five-year deal worth up to $87.5 million. The Broncos have a revolving door of mediocre talent at best at the right tackle for what seems like over a decade, so they’ll look to McGlinchey to change that for this season and into the future.
Who else is ready to see Javonte Williams running behind Mike McGlinchey? ☺️— DNVR Broncos (@DNVR_Broncos) July 11, 2023
McGlinchey, a former first-round pick, was a standout tackle for the 49ers who was known for being a mauler in the run game. As we have mentioned, the team plans to run the ball this season and they brought in McGlinchey for a reason, and that is to open running lanes for the Broncos backs. He brings a tough mentality to the line and is the type of player Sean Payton wanted to bring to Denver.
While this is a massive contract, if McGlinchey can fix the Broncos’ woes at right tackle, it will be worth every damn penny they spent to sign him.
Cam Fleming - Swing tackle - 6-foot-5, 320 pounds
Last season, Cam Fleming was arguably the Broncos' best offensive lineman after he took over at right tackle as well as left tackle after the Bolles injury. Now, he re-signs with the Broncos to serve as their swing tackle and give them some solid depth at the position.
It was assumed that he would get an opportunity to start this offseason and did meet with teams a few times during free agency, but ultimately, he decided to return to Denver.
This is a big get for the Broncos since Bolles is coming off a season-ending injury and you need tackle depth in general in this league. Fleming is arguably one of the best swing tackles in the league and he gives the Broncos the best starter/swing tackle trio they have had in quite a long time.
Isaiah Prince - Offensive tackle - 6-foot-7, 305 pounds
Prince was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was eventually waived by the Dolphins and claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Bengals. He opted out of the 2020 season, but returned in 2021 and ended up starting the entire postseason, including the Super Bowl because of an injury to Riley Reiff. Last season, he suffered an elbow injury that sidelined him for two months and then he was eventually waived by the Bengals and placed on their practice squad. This past winter, he signed a reserve/future contract with the Broncos and now is competing for a roster spot on their 53-man roster.
Right now, Prince is at best the Broncos fourth tackle on the depth chart, so he does have an outside shot of making the team. He has some starting experience and even played an entire postseason slate, including the Super Bowl. You could worse here with a reserve tackle, but it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
Christian DiLauro - Offensive tackle - 6-foot-6, 300 pounds
DiLauro is a well-traveled reserve tackle who has bounced on and off practices squads throughout his career. He has spent time on the Cleveland Browns practice squad and spent some time with the 49ers, Texans, and Steelers before he joined the Titans, and was able to make his NFL debut with them. He was later released by them before joining the Washington Commanders but was eventually released and recently joined the Broncos last season. He was activated off the practice squad for their final few games of the season and saw snaps on special teams during those final few games.
Now, DiLauro is competing for a spot on the 53-man roster or for a spot on the Broncos practice squad. His history tells you that he is unlikely to make the roster, and is a questionable at best practice squad candidate.
Alex Palczewski - Offensive tackle - 6-foot-6, 314 pounds
At the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos signed former Illinois offensive tackle Alex Palczewski to an undrafted contract. During his career there, he started 49 games at tackle and 16 games at guard. He is a versatile player with athleticism who is an intriguing player for the Broncos.
Got yesterdays Pro Day numbers for #Illinois OT Alex Palczewski.— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) March 11, 2023
He posted a 4.58 short shuttle, which would’ve been second best among OTs at the #NFLCombine.
65!! career college starts, didn’t allow a sack in 2022, 2nd team All-American. and impressed during @ShrineBowl week. pic.twitter.com/LoRTn65lU4
He is competing for that fourth tackle spot and a spot on the Broncos' 53-man roster. If he does not crack the roster, he seems like a lock for a spot on their practice squad. He has some impressive numbers, offers versatility, and was a solid blocker in college.
I think he has a chance to stick on the roster or at least give them an intriguing player to develop on their practice squad.
Demontrey Jacobs - Offensive tackle - 6-6, 315 pounds
After a solid career at South Florida, Demontrey Jacobs went undrafted but eventually ended up signing with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent. He is a big offensive tackle with freakishly long arms/a giant wingspan, mits for hands, and good testing numbers.
One of my favorite deep sleepers at offensive tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft: USF’s Demontrey Jacobs— Ian Cummings (@IC_Draft) April 12, 2023
Dude is built to displace. 36” arms, over 87” wingspan. But also a 93rd-percentile broad jump and a 87th-percentile 3-cone. pic.twitter.com/Pa21dfbJKv
Like Palczewski, Jacobs gives the Broncos a big developmental tackle with great size and testing numbers who they can potentially develop. I would imagine he is also a lock to be a practice squad addition, but we shall see how he progresses throughout camp.
Ben Powers - Left guard - 6-foot-4, 310 pounds
The first move the Broncos made during free agency was locking up the best guard in the market. They signed former Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Powers to a four-year, $51.5 million contract. He will replace Dalton Risner at left guard, who underwhelmed at the spot the past few years, so hopefully will be a big upgrade to the position.
Ben Powers was the 4th-best offensive lineman in the entire NFL last year, according to Sports Info Solutions.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) March 13, 2023
He ranked as the 3rd-best run blocking offensive lineman and the 15th-best pass blocking lineman.
Powers was a breakout player for the Ravens last season and turned that into a big-money deal in free agency. He is an excellent all-around player who should be a major addition to the Broncos offensive line. Sean Payton values guards put an emphasis on improving this unit and targeted Powers as the guy he wanted and get got him.
If Powers can repeat what he did last season and the Broncos offensive line as a whole improves, it will go a long way in helping the offense have a bounce-back season in 2023.
Quinn Meinerz - Right guard - 6-foot-3, 320 pounds
I am a big Meinerz fan and I think he can become the Broncos' best blocker, and I am excited to see what he can do with a competent coaching staff. He has a good blend of speed and strength and plays with a bit of a mean streak that I believe Sean Payton will really like.
Broncos RG Quinn Meinerz (77) is fun to watch! Both in pass pro and run blocking. Those workouts in nature definitely translate to the field.— Full-Time Dame (@DP_NFL) July 4, 2022
He’s tough & physical. I love his play style and attitude as much as his abilities! #BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/l40nRkyadh
He will start at right guard once again for the Broncos and give them one of the better guard tandems in the NFL. With the Broncos planning to run the ball a lot, Meinerz has a chance to be key to their run game. He is a mauler with a mean streak and is likely exactly what Payton looks for in his guards.
If the Broncos are successful this season, I think Meinerz could be in line for some All-Pro votes and possibly earn his first Pro Bowl. I am high on him and I think he can reach his full potential this upcoming season.
Quinn Bailey - Guard/Tackle - 6-foot-6, 323 pounds
I have Bailey listed with guards because if he makes the team, he will likely be a swing player who can play inside or outside. He has shown that he has this versatility in the past and could use that to make the 53-man roster.
Last season, Bailey dressed for eight games and earned his first start of his career. With the lack of current depth for the interior offensive line, he has a shot to make the team, especially when you add that he can be an emergency swing tackle. Worst case, he seems like a possible practice candidate if he does not crack the 53-man roster.
Luke Wattenberg - Interior offensive line - 6-foot-5, 300 pounds
Wattenberg was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos and he entered his rookie year with some expectations. He had the blueprint of a zone-blocking lineman who fit the current scheme and there was hope he could turn into a solid backup who could push for a starting job down the road. Unfortunately, Wattenberg had a rough rookie year and now enters his second season in the NFL in danger of losing his roster spot.
In his 1st start, Luke Wattenberg played 27 off. snaps before getting pulled. That was the 1st 5 Bronco drives. Those drives results: punt, punt, punt, pick-6, and punt (gained total 65 yards). Once Netane Muti came in at LG, DEN ran 45 plays that netted 255 yards and 28 points.— Joe Mahoney (@ndjomo76) December 12, 2022
Sean Payton wants maulers in the run game and values the guard position. With Wattenberg consistently getting pushed back last year, pushed over, and benched, he may not make this roster. Wattenberg was a selection made by the previous staff with their vision of what they want in a lineman, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fairs
So, Wattenberg will need to show Payton and the Broncos coaches that he added strength and will not be a liability for them. Right now, I do not think he makes the team and may not even be a practice squad candidate because of his play style.
Will Sherman - Guard - 6-foot-4, 300 pounds
Will Sherman was a sixth-round pick by the New England Patriots during the 2021 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on their practice squad and never was activated to the active roster. He was brought back the following season but was waived by the Patriots once again during the cut-down period. Instead of rejoining their practice squad, he signed to the Broncos practice squad. He was activated from the practice squad to the active roster during the final weeks of the Broncos' disappointing season. Now, he is looking to make the Broncos 53-man roster or their practice squad.
With the Broncos' current group of reserve linemen, Sherman could make the team, but that is because of the lack of depth. There’s a chance that the Broncos go out and add to this unit so, I do not think he is likely to make the team.
Henry Byrd - Guard - 6-foot-5, 310 pounds
The Broncos signed Princeton offensive lineman Henry Byrd as an undrafted free agent. He is an athletic lineman with a tap dancing background who will look to make the Broncos' 53-man roster.
Henry Byrd is a OT prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.10 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 118 out of 1293 OT from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/PXOScfCZaS pic.twitter.com/BPtTfdiBuj— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 19, 2023
With the Broncos' interior depth lacking, players like Byrd can easily make some noise and elevate themselves up the depth chart. His athleticism paired with his strength make him an intriguing option to keep an eye on.
Realistically, he is probably unlikely to make the final roster but a spot on the practice squad seems like a lock for Byrd.
Lloyd Cushenberry III - Center - 6-foot-4, 315 pounds
After an injury-shortened season last year that limited him to just eight games, Lloyd Cushenberry looks on track to start his fourth straight season for the Broncos at center. With that said, Cushenberry is viewed as the weak link in the Broncos' offensive line so he will need to prove that he is better than that.
Earlier in the offseason, head coach Sean Payton told reporters that the team views Cushenberry as their starting center moving forward. His words are backed up by the Broncos' actions. The team did very little to address the center position in the offseason outside a depth signing and a late seventh-round pick. That said, there are rumors that the Broncos were targeting one of the top centers in the draft, but none fell to them. So, we shall see if they do anything to address the position throughout the summer.
We need to see Cush be more consistent this season, get some push in the run game and be a better pass protector. Having two good guards next to him should be beneficial but we shall see how much that helps.
With Cushenberry entering the final year of his rookie contract, he will be fighting for his future with the team. If he plays like he has during his career, there’s no way Payton brings him back. However, if he plays well this season, he could make himself a lot of money.
Kyle Fuller - Center - 6-foot-4, 315 pounds
Late in free agency, the Broncos signed veteran interior lineman Kyler Fuller to a one-year deal. He gives the Broncos some veteran center/guard depth to go along with the amount of inexperience they have with their young linemen.
Throughout his career, Fuller has played for the Houston Texans, Washington Commanders, Miami Dolphins, and Seattle Seahawks, and is now with the Denver Broncos. He spent a total of three seasons in Seattle and started a total of 10 games for them, nine of which were with Russell Wilson as his quarterback.
He is competing to be the Broncos' backup center and likely be a swing center/guard player. Fuller likely has a decent shot at making the team but with this unit being so competitive and potentially outside additions added, he is no lock.
Alex Forsyth - Center - 6-foot-4, 312 pounds
In the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos selected Oregon center Alex Forsyth with their 257th overall pick in the draft. He is a 6’4”, 312-pound center who will now provide depth and competition at the center position.
Draft expert Emory Hunt had Alex Forsyth as his No. 1 center in the draft.— DNVR Broncos (@DNVR_Broncos) May 8, 2023
"I thought he was super consistent" pic.twitter.com/xgRg19Cutg
While he is no lock to make the 53-man roster, the late seventh-round rookie has some fans in the scouting community. One prominent draft analyst had Forsyth ranked as his top center in the draft. If their evaluation comes true, the Broncos got themselves an incredible steal here.
With the Broncos' reserves along the offensive line up in the air, he has a chance to lock himself into a roster spot during training camp and the preseason. He has the ability to play center or guard, two positions I think we will see him at throughout camp, and that versatility increases the odds that he makes the team.