Denver Broncos: The Offensive Line Gamble


The Denver Broncos brought in Jake Long today, and there was a lot of buzz about potentially getting a tackle who was once a No. 1 overall pick. It didn’t happen. The Broncos are not signing him right now, but are sticking with what they have.

That doesn’t mean Long’s out entirely. They left the door open to potentially bringing him in later, but it means they have their reservations.

What it likely means is that Long wants more money than John Elway is willing to pay. If the price was good, they may have signed him. If he was too hurt to play, they’d say they weren’t signing him at all—not that they still could in the future. The only way they’d say that is if they wanted to pay far less than Long wanted to be paid.

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If he comes down on that number when no one else signs him, he could come back to Denver. If he wants to stick to his guns, at that price point, the Broncos are happy to let him go.

This is also a gamble by Elway and everyone involved. They’ve actually drafted a handful of players in the last few years who can fill in on the line, from Boise State’s Matt Paradis last year to Max Garcia and Ty Sambrailo this spring. Not one was a first-round pick, but all could see the field.

Denver is going to gamble that those rookies can pick up the slack. They’d rather take that risk than overpay for a vet.

If it pays off, the move is huge. Having two rookies who are legit NFL starters saves the Broncos a ton of cap room—and can continue to do so for years to come.

If it fails, it’s a disaster. The whole offense can fall apart when the line can’t play. There aren’t holes for the backs to run through, there’s no time for Peyton Manning to throw the ball.

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The skill players make the highlight reels, but a broken offensive line means they never get a chance to shine. The receivers can’t make plays down the field if the quarterback doesn’t have time to get the ball off.

One nice thing about this is that the Denver Broncos were reworking the offensive line scheme anyway. That had to happen no matter who was on the field. Now, all of these young players get to learn it together. They don’t have as many habits they have to break, and they could form a solid core that can play together, perfectly in sync, for years.

But that’s only if the gamble pays off.

Next: C.J. Anderson: What if He Was a Fluke?