Broncos keep promise to beef up O-line, sign Cowboys' Ronald Leary

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Even with an almost constant swirl of speculation about quarterback Tony Romo's future around them at all times these days, the Denver Broncos' decision-makers, including general manager John Elway and coach Vance Joseph, have made no secret their biggest need in free agency is to upgrade their offensive line.

And their opening move in free agency did reel in a former Dallas Cowboys player -- it just wasn't Romo. They began fixing their biggest problem area by agreeing to terms with guard Ronald Leary, who goes from odd man out on Dallas’ offensive line to a key addition for the Broncos.

Terms: Four years, $35 million.

ESPN Top 150 ranking: No. 51.

Grade: A -- It sticks to the profile of success for the Broncos in free agency. They have agreed to terms on an ascending player who will turn 28 next month, and he helps fill their biggest offseason need as a walk-in starter. Personnel executives around the league lauded Leary’s play in his time as a starter for the Cowboys, and he gives the Broncos the kind of edge, especially in the run game, they need to help kick-start their offense. He started at least 13 games in three of his four seasons in Dallas and was considered one of the top interior offensive linemen available in free agency. Leary lost his job as a starter in the Cowboys' offense in 2015 only because owner Jerry Jones had given La'el Collins a fully guaranteed deal as an undrafted rookie that year.

What it means: The Broncos have started an offensive line makeover that could include three or four new starters. Leary played left guard this past season after Collins suffered a season-ending knee injury, and at least initially, that figures to be where the Broncos would slot him. Leary helped Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to the NFL rushing title with 1,631 yards.

What’s the risk: Leary went undrafted in 2012 because some teams believed he had a knee condition that could impact his ability to stay on the field. However, he has not had those issues with the Cowboys -- he was on the team’s practice squad in 2012 -- and was only displaced from the lineup in 2015 because the Cowboys had invested so much in Collins. He started 31 of 32 regular-season games in 2013 and 2014 combined in addition to his 13 started this past season.