Why draft an offensive tackle if you’re Denver?

With Ryan Clady locked up on a franchise tag and Orlando Franklin having taken a giant step upward last season, why spend time, money, or a draft choice on an offensive tackle?

Denver has a backup blocking TE/OT in RFA Chris Clark, who’s a decent lineman on run plays but who is not capable of handling any prolonged starting snaps. Since Clady’s cost may have to again be dealt with next season, Denver is still short one viable OT - the guy who can cover if Franklin or Clady go down. There are options on the roster, but it’s not a stretch to say that with Clady potentially playing on a one-year franchise tender and Franklin still being talked about as a guard, bringing in a top OT might be wise.

How would that work? I think it’s pretty simple. If Denver does move Franklin, it’s likely to be at the position he usually played in college - left guard. They didn’t pay right guard Louis Vasquez, with his pass protection skills, to sit out. With Zane Beadles making the Pro Bowl as an alternate (and earning it), though, how would that work? Here’s an option:

If Denver drafts a quality tackle who they can start at right tackle as a rookie, they’d still have Clady at left tackle in 2013. If the new tackle is of a high enough quality (it’s a deep draft at OT, and this would be the goal going in), they could have the option to again tender Clady and trade him, if they can’t settle on a longer term deal.

As the Dumervil situation shows, it can happen. If Clady works out a deal with the team (which I expect), you’ve got him at LT, Franklin at LG, J.D. Walton (or Philip Blake) at C, Vasquez at RG, and your new draft pick at RT, with Beadles still on the roster. If there is an injury, you’ve got Beadles to plug back in at LG and a choice of Franklin or the new player to move to LT, with the other covering the RT slot. Zane may also have developed enough to move out to RT in a pinch.

You also have the option of trading Beadles, who is 308 lb. Pro Bowl-level guards don’t hit the market that often, and he might bring in enough to make a trade worthwhile. Big O Franklin is 330 lb.and run blocks like a semi, while Vasquez is 335 lb and excels in pass protection. That gives you an interior group that’s substantially bigger and more powerful than in 2012 - Manny Ramirez runs 313 lb. and Chris Kuper runs about 303 lb, so that’s a Happy Meal short of 50 lb. of new weight. Franklin also gives you the fourth-and-inches guy that the interior has lacked since Tom Nalen left.

Personally, I’m happy with Beadles and Franklin where they are. Given the continued ‘Out of Dove Valley’ reports from the Denver Post, though, I’ve been asked why Denver would make this move at all. The reason would be to develop a bigger, stronger, and more versatile line, and to be prepared in the cases of injury or contract snafus. It’s not how I’d play it - I like the line, although I’ll withhold judgment on Walton until we see how well he comes back from his injury.

However, depth at OT has concerned me for a couple of seasons. This might be a good time to fix that, and in the coming weeks, I'll be examining the draft prospects the Broncos may be considering.

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