ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have one of the longer lists of free agents in the league and just under two weeks out from the formal opening of the NFL’s festival of checks, it’s a good time to take a one-a-day look at some of the impending Broncos free agents.
Today: Orlando Franklin
Sunday: Brandon Marshall
In retrospect, John Elway’s first draft class as the Broncos’ top football executive played, for the most part, to his highest hopes. After the Broncos had finished making their nine picks in 2011, Elway said the goal was to pull "three, four starters right away out of the group."
Four seasons have passed and seven players from that draft class -- Franklin, linebacker Von Miller, safety Rahim Moore, tight end Julius Thomas, tight end Virgil Green, linebacker Nate Irving and safety Quinton Carter -- have started games for the Broncos.
But since those four seasons have indeed passed that means the bill has come due as well, as those players (excluding Miller, who had an option year on his original contract) are now set to be free agents. And other than Thomas, it is Franklin who just might draw the most interest from other teams in free agency in the coming weeks. Elway said as much at the combine.
Elway said the Broncos would like Franklin back and that he would fit the team’s new offensive scheme, at guard, but he also said he expected “a lot of interest’’ in Franklin on the open market.
Given that the Broncos have so many other players in that ’11 draft class who are free agents to go with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, it’s likely Franklin will find bigger offers elsewhere. Especially given that several personnel executives around the league are known to have taken note of Franklin this past season and his impending trip into free agency.
Most of those teams see Franklin at guard at this point despite the fact Franklin started three seasons at right tackle before he was moved to left guard in 2014 as the Broncos tried to stay in-house to revamp their offensive line. That effort wasn’t all that successful overall, as seen in the Broncos’ pass-protection issues and the fact the team’s running backs were hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on a third of the team’s carries.
At least part of Franklin’s attraction in the open market will be his durability. He missed just one startduring his four seasons with the Broncos. And he started in the Broncos’ offense when it touched both ends of the run-pass spectrum, so teams have seen him in a variety of schematic situations.
In 2011, Franklin was a starter on the league’s No. 1 rushing team when the Broncos moved to a read-option look with Tim Tebow at quarterback and the Broncos were last in the league in pass attempts. And in 2013 he was a starter for an offense that set the league’s single-season scoring record with 606 points as quarterback Peyton Manning set league records for passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55).
So, yes the Broncos like what Franklin has done for the team, it’s just the chances are far greater another team will like Franklin, at least financially, a lot more.