Lloyd Cushenberry’s offseason departure to the Tennessee Titans has opened the door for two in-house players to take over the Denver Broncos starting job at center this upcoming season. Who will emerge this offseason?

Denver Broncos expect Alex Forsyth and Luke Wattenberg to compete for starting center job

Another offseason full of changes for the Denver Broncos as they prepare for Sean Payton’s second season as the team’s head coach. While the Broncos’ offense took a step forward in 2023, it wasn’t good enough for the team to scratch the surface on sustainably competing for a playoff spot.

Lloyd Cushenberry was the team’s starting center for the past four seasons and is now the starter for the Tennessee Titans after receiving a lucrative offer in NFL free agency.

His departure is one of many moves that signal a new start for the Broncos, including the center position. Now, it appears that in-house roster options Alex Forsyth and Luke Wattenberg will both compete for the starting job this summer.

Forsyth was selected in the seventh round of last year’s NFL Draft, while Wattenberg was drafted two years ago. Both players offer the Broncos the flexibility to play multiple positions at guard and center.

At Oregon, Forsyth was part of an offensive line that allowed five total sacks his senior season while snapping the ball to Bo Nix, a potential option for the Broncos in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Wattenberg played for the University of Washington. Both players are locker buddies who sit next to each other every day at the team facility.

On top of that, both players have a great rapport with one another, especially last season, when they had friendly debates about Oregon and Washington during the weeks their alma maters played one another.

Broncos head coach Sean Payton acknowledged what both players bring to the table in a potential competition earlier this past week at the NFL Annual Meeting.

“Well, there is a grit element to them,” Payton said. “They’re both athletic and they’re both extremely smart, just as [former Broncos C] Lloyd [Cushenberry III] is. It’s a position that requires not only a certain skill set, but a certain cerebral mindset. I think that both of those guys have that temperament, but they also have that understanding of what we’re doing.”

As it currently stands, they are the two players on the roster right now that are going to be first considered for the starting job.

“Those would be the first—if not for either of those two, or both in the building, there’s a chance maybe we would have moved in the direction of extending ourselves, if you will,” Payton said. “But those are the two candidates today as we sit here that will have a good opportunity to win that job.”

With Denver sitting in a good spot after NFL free agency, the next possible route to keep an eye on is whether or not the team adds a player at the center position in the NFL Draft at the end of April. With eight picks overall and five in the fifth and sixth rounds combined, it’s possible Denver adds a body if they hold firm with the picks they currently maintain.

Forsyth and Wattenberg have experience and familiarity now after spending last season inside Payton’s offense with OL coach Zach Strief. Earlier this offseason, Broncos GM George Paton also acknowledged that the organization views Forsyth as a starting center in the NFL, which gives him an on-paper advantage before the team heads into their offseason program in April.

Not only will the Broncos have a new starting center, but it’s likely they have a new face at the quarterback position as well.