Skip to main content

ESPN Advocates for Broncos to Re-Sign Sleeper O-Lineman

The Denver Broncos might not have to spend big money to solidify the right tackle position.

NFL free agency begins this coming week with the 'legal tampering' window opening on Monday and the new league year following on Wednesday. As the franchise tag deadline came and went, the Denver Broncos' decision about Dre’Mont Jones continues to loom large. 

Jones will soon hit the open market, and the Broncos’ brass will be waiting to see how NFL teams value the veteran defensive end. Meanwhile, Denver's offensive line needs are not open for debate.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler identified the Broncos as one of the five teams that “could be active” in free agency this year and pinpointed the elephant in the room.

Offensive line will be a focal point for Denver general manager George Paton and coach Sean Payton, who must first decide whether to re-sign Dre'Mont Jones. The Broncos are middle-of-the-pack with roughly $10 million in cap space.

What happens next for the Broncos? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!

Anyone who has followed the NFL over the last decade knows that the salary cap can be manipulated rather easily by moving on from players, restructuring contracts, or signing new players to contracts with the year-by-year cap hits set up to cause the smallest burden possible on the health of the salary cap. By moving on from cornerback Ronald Darby, offensive lineman Graham Glasgow, and running back Chase Edmonds, the Broncos now have $32.5 million in cap space, per Over The Cap.

Re-signing Jones could cost a pretty penny and eat up nearly two-thirds of that newly-created space, but Denver could structure the deal so that his 2023 cap hit is minimal, allowing more flexibility to add to the offensive line.

Who could the Broncos add to their offensive front? Most of Broncos Country’s attention will very likely focus on the right tackle position. 

With Kaleb McGary, Mike McGlinchey, and Jawaan James all hitting the market, Denver could instead allocate the money that could have been used to retain Jones to add a large contract right tackle to the roster instead. Doing so might indicate that Garett Bolles might not be long for Denver beyond next season, given how his contract is set up, but for the short term, at least the tackle spots would be solved.

The offensive tackle is the more valuable position, but with the stout Russell Wilson under center and Sean Payton's reported emphasis on the run game entering 2023, perhaps the interior offensive line is of equivalent value for Denver. The Broncos’ own Dalton Risner is considered by many to be one of the better free agents in the upcoming interior line class, but Denver could decide to target other interior players such as Isaac Semaulo, Nate Davis, Ethan Pocic, Ben Powers, or perhaps either (or both?) of the Connor McGoverns (one from New York and the other from Dallas).

If Denver does miss out on the top tackles in free agency or decides the cost is outside its comfort zone, Fowler highlighted a potential under-the-radar option in Cameron Fleming as a possibility.

Looking for a solid but inexpensive tackle who can play on both sides of the line? Fleming is your guy. Last season with the Broncos, Fleming's 89% pass block win rate and 76.1% run block win rate ranked 36th and 27th, respectively, out of 64 qualifiers at the position.

Extremely underrated by Broncos Country at large, Fleming was arguably one of the team’s best offensive linemen in 2022. Playing both right tackle and left tackle, his versatility and ability to move defenders in the run game was displayed often as one of the few Broncos linemen who played at a favorable level. 

Fleming has his limitations as a drop-back pass protector due to limited foot speed and athleticism, but he was a bargain for Denver in comparison to his contract last season and is likely to have a solid market as a talented swing option in free agency.

If the Broncos were to retain Fleming on a short-term contract in free agency, he could provide a solid floor at right tackle while also keeping the door open to draft a replacement. A combination of Fleming and a third or fourth-round rookie might not make anyone in Broncos Country overly excited, but on top of an additional signing of a solid left guard or center in free agency, it could go a long way in maximizing the team's salary cap space and help turnaround a struggling offensive line.

Follow Mile High Huddle on Twitter and Facebook.

Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!