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Wednesday, June 12
Updated: June 21, 5:46 PM ET
Tackle's recovery from surgeries a big issue

By Len Pasquarelli

Free agent offensive lineman Blake Brockermeyer has found a new home.

Whether the Denver Broncos have found a new starting left tackle, however, remains to be seen.

Released in the spring by the Chicago Bears for salary cap and injury reasons, Brockermeyer has signed a seven-year contract with the Broncos in a deal that protects the interests of both parties.

In essence, the contract is a one-year deal worth $1.35 million, including a signing bonus of $700,000 and a 2002 base salary of $650,000. Brockermeyer could earn up to about $2 million total if he fulfills certain incentive conditions. The Broncos must pay him a bonus of $4 million next spring to exercise options on the remaining years of the contract.

The safeguards were included because Brockermeyer, 29, is recovering from offseason shoulder and knee surgeries. The surgery on his right shoulder was extensive, and it now appears Brockermeyer will not be recovered until the beginning of training camp, if then.

His tenuous physical condition, along with the inability of the two sides to strike a deal that would have reduced his 2002 base salary, led to the Bears' decision to release him this spring. Brockermeyer had started all 16 games for Chicago in 2001 and was part of an offensive line that allowed a league-low 17 sacks.

The San Francisco 49ers had also pursued Brockermeyer throughout the offseason, but preferred a contract structure based more on incentives, and their interest began to wane about a week ago.

Brockermeyer will compete with another free agent acquisition, Ephraim Salaam, for the starting left tackle job. Salaam played primarily at right tackle during four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, but has been working on the left side in minicamps, and has been a pleasant surprise for Denver coaches. Brockermeyer is noted as an excellent pass protector and physical blocker in the running game.

The vacancy at left tackle was created when Trey Teague, the starter in 2001, signed with the Buffalo Bills as an unrestricted free agent.

A former University of Texas standout, Brockermeyer was one of three first-round draft picks of the Carolina Panthers in their inaugural 1995 season. He played four seasons for Carolina before moving to Chicago in 1999 as an unrestricted free agent.

For his career, Brockermeyer has appeared in 104 games and started 100 of them.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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