Broncos want offensive tackles who can 'block speed'

Broncos head coach Vance Joseph wants to acquire tackles who can block speed. Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When it comes to who the Denver Broncos will eventually line up at offensive tackle, it’s not left or right that concerns coach Vance Joseph, but rather fast or slow.

“So, left or right tackle, they both have to pass protect," Joseph said at the NFL owners meetings Tuesday in Phoenix. “So, if it’s left or right, you have to switch your feet and play, so I’m not overly concerned about having a left tackle.

"Von Miller, for the most part, is on our defensive left side, so he’s going against the right tackle all the time. Defensively, you can align your front anywhere you want. I can get Von Miller on your worst tackle anytime I want. So left or right, who cares? We need to acquire tackles who can block speed. In our division, every team has two (pass-rushers), so it’s a concern for all of us in the division blocking edge rushers. Left or right? Not concerned. I want two guys who can block speed rushers."

That said, the Broncos at minimum have an opening at left tackle, and right tackle is likely open to competition. With Russell Okung's departure -- the Broncos opted not to pay him an option bonus to engage the last four years of his contract, and he signed a $53 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers -- as well as some other adjustments, the Broncos are looking at a third consecutive offseason with a makeover on the offensive line.

They signed guard Ronald Leary in free agency, as well as tackle Menelik Watson. However, Watson has played far more at right tackle in his career and because of injury troubles has never played in more than 12 games in any season of his career.

The Broncos started Donald Stephenson at right tackle last season and considered him a right tackle when they signed him in free agency a year ago, even though he has just over a dozen career starts at left tackle in his career. However, his first season with the Broncos was a bumpy one as he tied for the team lead in penalties (11) and was benched for a time for Ty Sambrailo before being reinserted into the lineup.

Both Joseph and executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway have said in recent weeks that either Watson or Stephenson could get a look at left tackle. But they also said they will look to the draft and at any veteran tackles who are released in the weeks and months to come as teams make salary cap adjustments.

“We’ll get it fixed," Elway said recently.

Joseph said at the league meetings on Tuesday that the Broncos had discussed, in-house, the chance the team would not initially secure the slam-dunk answer at left tackle in the early days of free agency. They ended up signing Leary, Watson, two defensive linemen in Domata Peko and Zach Kerr, as well well as outside linebacker Kasim Edebali in free agency thus far.

“There was a possibility that we weren’t going to have it filled," Joseph said of the left tackle void at this point. “You talk through every issue that’s possible with free agency and with your roster. So I’m not surprised that we’re sitting here without a known left tackle."

Joseph, a former defensive coordinator, said he believe the traditional roles of a left tackle as a better pass protector and a right tackle as a more physical run blocker is a little dated.

“That’s the old tradition," Joseph said. “In football terms, the right tackle is more of a run blocker, a bigger guy. The left tackle is more of a dancer. It’s got to be equal. I want two good players. I don’t want one guy to be a heavy‐footed run blocker and one guy to be a soft basketball player. I want guys who can do both."

That said, the draft is considered thin in players who would be ready to step in and be starters at left tackle as rookies. Alabama’s Cam Robinson, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk and Utah’s Garett Bolles are considered the top options in the draft, though Ramczyk is still recovering from hip surgery.