Odds are Stacked Against Connor McGovern Re-Signing with Broncos, Despite Elway's Combine Remarks

Chad Jensen

As expected, the Denver Broncos have chosen to decline the team option on OG Ronald Leary's contract, which renders him a free agent and opens up an additional $8.5 million in cap space. It also exposes another hole on the offensive line. 

When it comes to the projected starting five upfront, the Broncos have only three spots filled with incumbents under contract. The center position remains up in the air, along with right guard, with Connor McGovern set to be an unrestricted free agent. 

However, with all the general managers and head coaches in the NFL descending on Indianapolis this past week for the Scouting Combine, John Elway gave us a hint on how the Broncos view McGovern. 

"We're going through a plan now, and putting one together in free agency, and looking at different targets there," Elway said on Tuesday. "Hopefully, we'd like to get better there. Connor's still free, so we'll be talking to Connor, too."

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The Broncos selected McGovern in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Missouri. He made the 53-man roster as a rookie but spent the season as a 16-game healthy scratch. 

Fast forward to 2017, and McGovern was eventually worked into the rotation later in the year after Leary was injured. In 2018, the Broncos moved Leary back to left guard and opened the season with McGovern as the starting right guard, which lasted until then-head coach Vance Joseph needed a mid-season scapegoat. McGovern was temporarily benched, only to get reinserted at center after Matt Paradis went down with a season-ending injury. 

Finally, in 2019, McGovern started all 16 games at center and played well. He had good command of the group and helped along three different starting quarterbacks while not being penalized once in 1,013 snaps. 

Pro Football Focus gave McGovern a grade of 71.9, which was good for 11th-best in the NFL among centers. All this begs the question; what is McGovern worth on the open market? 

The No. 11 highest-paid center in the NFL is a three-way tie between Seattle's Justin Britt, the Chargers' Mike Pouncey, and Atlanta's Alex Mack, all of whom make $9 million per season. The No. 10 highest-paid center is Dallas' Travis Frederick at $9.4M APY, while the No. 14 is Green Bay's Corey Linsley with an $8.5M APY. 

That's what the Broncos are looking at if they want to re-sign McGovern. The issue is, since Elway has led the Broncos' front office, the team has never paid a center. It's always been either a player on a rookie contract or a one-year mercenary signed off the street. 

Center is just not a highly-valued position by Elway and Director of Player Personnel Matt Russell. What that likely means in 2020 is that the Broncos will, as Elway said, 'talk' to McGovern but the player is going to test the market. 

Even if he doesn't find a taker willing to pay him top-11 center money commensurate with his performance in 2019, he's still likely to command a new deal worth far more than the Broncos will be willing to pay. Get used to the idea of either Patrick Morris or Austin Schlottmann manning the center spot for Drew Lock in 2020. 

Either one of those two (probably Morris), or a player drafted in the first five rounds in April's draft. McGovern deserves to get paid — maybe not elite money — but top-15 money at worst because he also brings guard versatility to the table. It'd be nice to have that versatility still on the Broncos' O-line but it comes at a premium. 

And not a premium the Broncos are likely willing to pay, especially with one of the top O-line coaches in the league in the building in Mike Munchak. 

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen and @MileHighHuddle.

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Comments (12)
No. 1-8
Broncos61
Broncos61

"The issue is, since Elway has led the Broncos' front office, the team has never paid a center. It's always been either a player on a rookie contract or a one-year mercenary signed off the street. " Well, for the 1st in many season Broncos has the real authority in OL, M. Munchak. His opinion will most likely be most influential !!!

Dick Hanky
Dick Hanky

One would hope Munchak has a say. Ideally, they'll get a LT in 1st or 2nd, unless Ruiz is available. They will need a G/C too. Keep Bowles another year and try to sign McGov. I just don't like guaranteed money if they decide to move on. Munchak seems pretty confident with Morris.

Brew77
Brew77

If McGovern hits FA he won’t be back which since it doesn’t seem the two sides have talked a contract seem like the likely bet. Most have McGovern as the best FA center hitting the market so he will have suitors. The best bet for the Broncos next center is BJ Finney or the draft whichever it is McGovern won’t be here. I’ve seen one mock draft idea I really like why not in the third round double down on a pair of Oregon Ducks C Jake Hanson and G Shane Lemieux! Both are considered mid round picks and both performed well at the combine I believe the Broncos actually met with Lemieux so that’s a good sign. Elway needs to address the Oline we all know that why not bring in a couple of studs instead of wasting top money on injured veterans give Munchak a couple of youngsters to work with like they always did in Pittsburgh.

Bucky Bronco
Bucky Bronco

There are three very good centers in the draft: Lloyd Cushenberry III, Matt Hennessy, and Cesar Ruiz. At least one should be available in the second round, maybe the third if the Broncos get lucky.

FTballFan
FTballFan

I like the familiarity that McGovern has with Drew Lock. They were on the same team for a year in college & continue that chemistry in the NFL.

BeGoodBroncos
BeGoodBroncos

It seems unlikely McG comes back. I don't blame him for moving on or for the Broncos going a different direction. Have seen multiple sources say they really like Morris. Here's a good read on him.

broncofan55555
broncofan55555

BeGood---thanks for the link. This explains in spades why McG will be moving on to another team. That's fine with me as there are many holes the Broncos have and not having to spend big cap dollars on a center makes getting other needs filled all the more likely to happen.

Tommy108
Tommy108

I’d be okay with a rookie or moors at center IF they upgrade RG with top shelf talent like Thuney or Sherf


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