Mile High Sports

Free-agent fits: four right tackles for the Broncos to target

Jan 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (71) against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After finishing last in the AFC West last season, the Broncos have many gaps to fill on both sides of the ball. Fortunately for Bronco fans, the organization has been aggressive in free agency in an effort to fill them. Most notably, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, fellow Vikings cornerback Tramaine Brock and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, were signed last week and yesterday, respectively. While these are three notable and necessary signings, there are still a lot of pieces to fill for a Broncos team that hopes to reach the playoffs next season. An offensive line is crucial to the success of the aerial attack and the run game. Specifically, the Broncos need a right tackle who can provide Keenum (or Paxton Lynch) time and protection in the pocket. An effective right tackle will also create running lanes that can make the Broncos’ offense more unpredictable to opposing defenses. Let’s take a look at four potential free agent right tackles for the Broncos this offseason:

  1. Cameron Fleming

After graduating from Stanford University, Fleming was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round (140th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Fleming was a key component in the Patriots’ Super Bowl run last season. In the regular season, the Patriots won all but one game when Fleming started. He started at right tackle in the win at Pittsburgh (12/17), in the win vs. Buffalo (12/24), and in the win vs. N.Y. Jets (12/31). He also started in the AFC Championship vs. Jacksonville (1/21), and in the Super Bowl loss vs. Philadelphia (2/4). Fleming brings a championship pedigree to the Broncos. Not only does he have a Super Bowl championship from 2016, he also has multiple PAC-12 championships and a Rose Bowl Championship from 2012. At 6’5″, 320 pounds, Fleming is strong enough to handle any defensive linemen in the NFL. The best part? He’s only 25. The Broncos could really use a young, powerful talent like Fleming.

2. Austin Howard

An NFL veteran, Howard has been in the league since 2010. He was undrafted, but has made his way onto four different NFL teams over eight seasons. WalterFootball.com ranks him fifth on their list of the best available offensive tackles in the NFL. At 6’7″, 330 pounds, his elite size is comparable to Fleming’s. Both of them would be valuable editions to a Denver Broncos offensive line that struggled last year, only creating 115.8 rush yards per game, good for only 12th in the NFL.

3. Greg Robinson

Robinson, a former first team all-SEC player for the Auburn Tigers, is a viable option for the Broncos’ offensive line. He was the second pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and hasn’t yet lived up to that lofty billing. At Auburn, he not only received first-team honors, he was a part of a SEC championship team that was ranked second in the country and lost by three points to Jameis Winston‘s Florida State Seminoles in the BCS National Championship. Robinson’s size and durability can’t go unnoticed. He is 6’5″, 332 pounds and in 52 NFL games, he’s started 48. Still only 25, Robinson still has All-Pro potential.

4. LaAdrian Waddle

Fleming’s teammate on the New England Patriots, LaAdrian Waddle is a force to be reckoned with on the right side of the offensive line. He was back-to-back all-Big 12 at Texas Tech, earning second-team honors in 2012 and first-team honors in 2013. Waddle went undrafted in 2013, but played for the Detroit Lions for two years before joining the Patriots in 2016. Waddle’s championship experience will be valuable for the Broncos — he’s been to two Super Bowls in the last three years. At 6’6″, 315 pounds, his size is not outstanding, but his work ethic compensates wonderfully. The Broncos would gain significant depth on the offensive line if they could sign both of the available Patriots linemen.

These are just a few options for the Broncos, who need to upgrade their offense and defense in the offseason. Any one of these linemen would make the Broncos roster look more impressive than before.