Denver to work 'a million' OL combinations

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Denver Broncos have some rather large items on their to-do list that will depend on how they answer one significant question about the offensive line.

They want to protect quarterback Peyton Manning, because, well, protecting Manning is the foundation of what needs to be done every time they snap the ball.

And the Broncos have said, from John Elway to head coach John Fox to offensive coordinator Adam Gase, they want to run the ball better -- "more efficiently," as Fox put it -- because they believe it would help them be a little better than they were last season. As in one win better than losing in the season's last game.

At least that's the goal.

But when left guard Zane Beadles left in free agency because he got far more from the Jacksonville Jaguars (five years, $30 million) than the Broncos would have put on the table, it left Denver with a decision to make on the offensive line. A decision, Fox said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings, that won’t be made without plenty of trial and error along the way.

"We’re trying to get our best five on the field and there will be a lot of different formulas for that," Fox said. "Until we suit them up again and start practicing and evaluated them, they'll define it. And there will be a bunch of combinations ... we'll work a million combinations."

Fox said all the options will be considered, all of the rotations tried as the Broncos go through their offseason work in the coming weeks and months.

But as the Broncos monitor the offensive linemen in free agency and with the draft still on the docket, the two most likely moves they could make are:

  • Move right tackle Orlando Franklin to left guard and with Ryan Clady’s return to left tackle, use that opportunity to move Chris Clark to right tackle. On Franklin, Fox said: “He was prepared to play guard last year." If the Broncos don’t grab a plug-and-play interior lineman in the draft or add a potential starter in the second wave of free agency, this remains the most likely, and effective option, given how well Franklin played as a guard at the University of Miami.

  • Or the Broncos could sign a center or select one in the May draft, but either of those options represents a tall order for the incoming player into an offense that does plenty of work at the line of scrimmage with Manning using the freedom to change plays. But if they added a center, Fox said they could move Manny Ramirez to guard, where he played for the Broncos in the 2012 season.

“But we’ll see," Fox said. "We’re going to try a lot of things and guys are going to work at multiple spots. We want to be ready to do what we need to do, like I’ve said you only take seven guys into a game for five spots, if something happens there is about three different re-coils for that."