Broncos Announce Deal with Free-Agent OT Demar Dotson
Just a few days ago, word broke that free-agent offensive tackle Demar Dotson would be visiting the Denver Broncos. We learned that the 'parameters' of a deal were in place and that an accord was expected to be reached early in the week.
Now, little more than one week removed from starting right tackle Ja'Wuan James' fateful decision to opt-out of the 2020 season, the Broncos have signed Dotson to help fill the void. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport broke the news Tuesday evening. The Broncos confirmed the signing on Wednesday.
"The Broncos have signed veteran RT Demar Dotson, source said. The long-time Bucs starter, who has more than 100 starts, beefs up the Denver O-line," Rapoport tweeted.
The next question on the minds of fans is the contract Dotson received from the Broncos. Per KUSA's Mike Klis, Dotson's one-year deal is incentive-laden and worth up to $3 million if he hits all the escalators.
For what it's worth, that's excellent value for such an experienced tackle. GM John Elway has essentially decided to rent out Dotson's services for one season at a relatively low cost. If Dotson goes on to see serious snaps and plays well, Elway can always circle back and try to re-sign him in 2021.
Although the veteran tackle will turn 35 this year and is getting increasingly long in the tooth, guys like Andrew Whitworth in Los Angeles and Jason Peters in Philadelphia are proving that tackles who can fend off the injury bug can play late into their 30s and forestall the vagaries of Father Time.
Dotson's experience as a starter at right tackle in the league should be of great comfort to Broncos Country. With the turnstile the Broncos have had at right tackle since even before Super Bowl 50's triumph, fans have developed a little PTSD and will rightly be skeptical of Dotson until he proves himself in the pudding.
Dotson (6-foot-9, 315 pounds) is coming off a final year in Tampa Bay in which he started 15 games at right tackle, earning a 71.0 grade via Pro Football Focus (which is good). PFF gave Dotson a 72.4 grade as a pass-blocker and a 67.3 grade as a run-blocker, which easily trumps what Elijah Wilkinson produced in his 12 starts last year in relief of the injured James.
Wilkinson earned a 59.6 cumulative grade last year, ranking him No. 59 among qualifying tackles. The fly in the ointment with Dotson is the penalties, which is another reason fans will remain a little skeptical thanks to the recidivist face-palming fouls by Garett Bolles over the last three years.
Although Dotson graded out far better than Wilkinson last year, he was penalized a whopping 10 times (five false-starts, five holding), which. combined with his age, is the big reason why he languished on the free-agent market for six months. For comparison's sake, Wilkinson was flagged six times (which is still a lot).
For now, Wilkinson will likely continue as the leader in the clubhouse for the first-team right tackle duties but the Broncos would be remiss to not rotate Dotson into that mix and allow the two to compete. I would expect that by the time the Broncos get to August 14 and training camp really kicks into high gear, Wilkinson and Dotson will be rotating in with the first-team offense.
Under the expert and discerning eye of venerated O-line coach Mike Munchak, surely the best man will win. I'd favor Wilkinson slightly as the favorite but only because of his incumbency and familiarity to Munchak and the team. However, Wilkinson is still very much a newbie when it comes to starting at right tackle in the league and there's a really good chance Dotson will step in and make apparent his veteran experience.
The NFL is the ultimate meritocracy. If Dotson shows better competency, he'll win the job. If it's unclear or if there simply aren't enough quality reps to be had for the coaches to make a decision, the Broncos could roll into 2020 with Wilkinson as the starter.
Whichever way it shakes out, the Broncos now have some depth at offensive tackle. It might not be the quality of talent that the team could project 10 days ago when James was still on the roster but considering his experience, the Dotson addition might not be too far off.
And as I floated on the Huddle Up Podcast earlier this week, it's entirely possible Dotson can play at a higher level than the $52M James, who has appeared in exactly 63 snaps for Denver since signing that lucrative, record-setting contract in March of 2019.