Broncos Would be Wise to Extend LT Garett Bolles Sooner Than Later

Garett Bolles enters a contract year and the Denver Broncos don't have a viable replacement waiting in the wings.
Sep 26, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) reacts after the game against the New York Jets at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) reacts after the game against the New York Jets at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
In this story:

The Denver Broncos face the potential loss of left tackle Garett Bolles as he enters the final year of his contract. Over the past two years, trade rumors have cast a shadow of doubt on Bolles' future with the team.

The team's lack of a proactive approach to preparing for life without Bolles, such as drafting a tackle, which the Broncos haven't done since taking him in the first round in 2017, highlights a potential vulnerability. 

Since the Broncos drafted Bolles, they've invested eight picks in drafting interior offensive linemen and spent free-agent dollars on tackles or signing undrafted free agents. While not the worst path to take, the moves have yet to work out for the Broncos, as they're still looking for a potential replacement for Bolles if he leaves Denver after this season. 

The Broncos' two last two undrafted shots were on Alex Palczewski (2023) and Frank Crum (2024). Palczewski had a solid preseason as a rookie but suffered an injury that sidelined him for the season.

With him playing 128 snaps, 79 as a pass blocker, Palczewski allowed two total pressures. Not only did the injury hurt his development, but he only played at right tackle in the preseason, creating concern that he could flip sides, though it was reported he did so in practice. Practice and games are two very different animals, though.

Crum has the athleticism and size to play at the NFL level, but he doesn’t have the strength or technique. If the Broncos are looking at Crum to replace Bolles, they need expedited development from him to be ready for next season. That, or the team extends Bolles for a year or two and buys itself more time to find a potential replacement for the long-time starting left tackle. 

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

Is Bolles Worth an Extension?

That's the question. There's a wide range of opinions on Bolles around Broncos Country. Many can’t forget his early penalty issues as a recidivist holder, though he has significantly reduced his yellow-flag infractions over the past few seasons. 

According to Pro Football Focus, among 30 tackles with at least 950 blocking snaps, Bolles ranked 10th in overall offensive grade, 18th in run-blocking grade, fourth in pass-blocking grade, sixth-fewest sacks allowed, seventh-fewest pressures, eighth in pass-blocking efficiency, and 22nd in total penalties with eight.

Four of Bolles' penalties were holding, with three false starts, and one illegal formation. Only seven tackles who played as many snaps as Bolles had fewer penalties than him. 

While eight penalties are still on the higher side, it's an acceptable number, and you can see how he has cut down on the penalties compared to his first three years. Bolles had 32 penalties called on him in the first three seasons, compared to 23 penalties over the last four seasons.

When you watch Bolles play in those first three seasons, compared to the last few, you can see clear technical improvements to his game that have helped cut down on some of those penalties. Also, in some of the holding calls Bolles has been hit with over the past few seasons weren’t technical holds, but the refs take a shoot-first, ask-questions-later approach.

Bottom Line

So, is Bolles a top five tackle in the NFL? No, but you can make an argument for the top 10.

At the very least, Bolles is top 12 at his position, and considering how hard tackles are to come by in the modern NFL, that's worth keeping around. But how much do you pay Bolles for another year or two?

The 11th highest-paid tackle, on average, comes in at $15 million per year. That should be the starting point for the Broncos, but a lot depends on what happens during the 2024 season. 

Overall, if the Broncos want to extend Bolles, they're likely looking at a $16.5-$20 million on an average-per-year basis. That would keep him as a top 10 highest-paid left tackle while keeping him out of the top five. How much is Bolles willing to accept?

Will he be willing to take less to stay? A lot goes into negotiations, but barring a complete meltdown 2024 season, the best course of action for the Broncos would be to extend Bolles and buy themselves more time to find or develop a replacement. 

Follow Mile High Huddle on X and Facebook and subscribe on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!


Published
Erick Trickel

ERICK TRICKEL

Erick Trickel is the Senior Draft Analyst for Mile High Huddle, has covered the Denver Broncos, NFL, and NFL Draft for the site since 2014.