Connor McGovern may not be a flashy name, but he was a seriously skilled center last year.
At least when it comes to avoiding penalties. McGovern, who moved over from his natural guard position to center last year, was one of only three offensive linemen to play 600-plus snaps last year and not incur a single penalty. That, per Pro Football Focus.
Considering how often Garett Bolles is called for penalties, having McGovern on the line helps to balance those numerous infractions out.
Besides the penalties, or lack thereof, how well did McGovern play at center last year, though? According to PFF, he graded out at a 71.9 overall, which was his highest grade and ranked him as the 10th-best center in the NFL last season.
His pass blocking is where McGovern shines, grading out at an 82.5 over the course of the season, which was fifth-best among centers. He allowed one sack — on Joe Flacco — three QB hits and 15 total hurries on 609 pass blocking plays. However, while his overall grade and pass blocking grade were each career-highs, he struggled in the run game. That grade, 64.0, was 22nd among players at his position.
Now, the Broncos are in position to decide what to do next with McGovern, whom they drafted in the fifth round in 2016. Last year, Denver let another homegrown talent at center, Matt Paradis, walk for big money ($9 million per year). They replaced him with McGovern, sliding the right guard into the all-important center spot.
After making near the league minimum his first three years, McGovern earned just north of $2 million last season and he’s likely to be making much more on his next contract. While the Broncos have 27 total free agents, one of their more important decisions will be on the fourth-year guard/center.
If the Broncos can sign him for around $5 million per season, they likely will do just that. But, considering he’s an unrestricted free agent, another offensive lineman-needy team may come in and offer him more, even around $7-8 million per year, which would be a little rich for Denver’s blood.
That will be one difficult decision moving forward, because the Broncos will have a makeshift offensive line again in 2020. Bolles is in his fourth year, the final of his rookie deal, and has to prove his worth. Ja’Wuan James needs to stay healthy and actually compete in 2020. Ronald Leary is all but gone at right guard, and the only surefire stud is Dalton Risner at left guard.
They’ll already be replacing Leary, so having to find a new center will only compound problems up front. Solidifying the line is key considering the team seems to be all-in on soon-to-be sophomore QB Drew Lock, who excelled when protected but struggled under pressure as a rookie.
If Denver moves on, one option is Stefen Wisniewski, formerly of the Chiefs. Although, after winning a Super Bowl, he may just stay put. And then there’s former Broncos guard Ben Garland who will be a free agent among multiple others.