How the Broncos will use Russell Okung, Donald Stephenson

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Coach Gary Kubiak can’t say exactly how the Denver Broncos will line up on the offensive line next season.

He just believes the depth chart is better and the whole the Broncos' offense will benefit from it.

"We went from being very thin to having some depth at that phase of our football team," Kubiak said at the league meetings. "It’s going to be very competitive, and it probably wasn’t that way last year because of injury and some of the things that happened. … We felt like that was the No. 1 area that we needed to improve."

The Broncos were never going to make a big splash in the free-agency pool, but plenty of the resources used thus far have gone toward the offensive line, with the draft still to come. The Broncos’ first signing was tackle Donald Stephenson for three years and $14 million. They also signed tackle Russell Okung to a deal that will pay him $5 million this season and comes with an option bonus that kicks in another four years on the deal at the end of the season if the Broncos choose.

Kubiak said Tuesday while Stephenson could play guard for the Broncos, he envisions Stephenson at right tackle with Okung at left tackle. The rub with Okung is he had shoulder surgery this offseason, and while the Broncos’ medical staff evaluated him before the contract became official, the team will tread carefully with the veteran.

As a result, Kubiak said the Broncos may limit Okung’s on-field work during the team’s offseason program, which opens April 18. Kubiak said he believes Okung will be ready for training camp.

"He should be, all indications are, through my conversations, he should be ready some time in May," Kubiak said. "… But we’ll wait and see how much OTA stuff he participates in … but we'll be smart in how we handle that."

"They made a good decision in bringing me in," said Okung before the Broncos left for the league meetings. "You make decisions like that, you’re headed the right way. I’ve got a really good understanding for what the zone scheme is, and I think I can do whatever they ask of me."

With those two players at tackle and Matt Paradis at center -- he was the only play on offense or defense who played every snap for the Broncos last season -- Ty Sambrailo is likely moving to guard, a move Kubiak confirmed is on the table.

Sambrailo started the first three games of the season at left tackle in 2015 as a rookie after Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending knee injury in May. Sambrailo suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Broncos’ Week 3 win over the Detroit Lions.

Kubiak said Sambrailo may be limited in some of the team’s offseason program as well, as a precaution, and predicted Sambrailo would be in the mix to start at one of the guard spots.

"Ty in a lot of ways is starting over," Kubiak said. "… His flexibility helps us." Kubiak added that Sambrailo is "a natural fit to move inside."

Max Garcia, who like Sambrailo played as a rookie last season, projects as the other guard. Both Kubiak and executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway have lauded the depth among the offensive line prospects in the draft. With 10 picks, the Broncos are poised to use multiple picks on the position.

And there is still the matter of tackle Clady. Even as the Broncos have attempted to trade Clady, who has a $10.1 million salary cap figure this year after spending two of the last three seasons on injured reserve, Kubiak offered a scenario where Clady stays on the roster.

Teams would be hesitant to send the Broncos a draft pick for Clady, a player most in the league thinks the Broncos will release if they cannot find a trade partner. Perhaps to try to hint Clady’s release is not a guarantee, Kubiak mentioned Clady as being "still a part of our team" several times Tuesday.

It is unlikely the Broncos would keep Clady under any scenario that doesn’t include a contract adjustment. Clady, a nine-year veteran, has the third-highest salary cap figure for 2016 and his cap figure for 2017, the final year of his deal, is $10.7 million.

"I’d say right now we have a lot of versatility, and that’s a good thing," Kubiak said. "Ryan’s still ours, Ryan’s on our football team; nobody mentions that, that’s still a possibility."