It was just a few weeks ago that some of you were wondering if the Broncos might bring in another veteran lineman. Well, look no further as the Broncos have signed former Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis to a one-year deal.
Mathis was very good last season, ranked by Pro Football Focus as one of the top guards in the NFL. He’s 33 years old, though, so one has to wonder how much he has left in the tank.
So why would the Broncos bring him on board? Does it mean they might look at more veterans? Let’s consider a few possibilities.
1. The most likely possibility is that, while the Broncos are happy with fourth-round pick Max Garcia, they are not happy with the depth behind him. The Mathis signing certainly means he will start, but the Broncos may see Garcia as a quality depth player and not have much dropoff in case Mathis, Vasquez or Paradis misses a game or two. Adding Mathis allows the Broncos to upgrade not just the starting lineup, but the depth, too. Also, Garcia gets a year to learn from Mathis, with the expectation he will eventually start.
2. The Broncos were fine with Garcia starting, but believe Ty Sambrailo will benefit from playing alongside a veteran. It’s pretty clear the Broncos are committed to Sambrailo at left tackle, so a veteran playing next to him might help him relax.
3. The Broncos simply believed it was best not to have three inexperienced linemen start this season and wanted another veteran to help protect Peyton Manning.
An additional tidbit from Jeff Legwold:
From @AdamSchefter and me — Mathis get $2.5 million base, incentives worth $1.5 million and include snap percentage.
— Jeff Legwold (@Jeff_Legwold) August 25, 2015
As the Broncos will commit some of their remaining cap space to Mathis (he will get a $2.5M base salary, so at least that much will count against this year’s cap), it isn’t likely they sign another veteran lineman. I suspect they didn’t like what they saw in Jake Long, or perhaps he asked for more money than they wanted to give him. Regarding Long, keep in mind that the Giants and Falcons, two more teams who are needy for offensive linemen, brought him in and opted not to sign him. So it’s not like the Broncos were the only team who passed on Long.
Meanwhile, Mathis’ signing is troubling for Ben Garland, who held a starting spot at left guard during OTAs, but has since lost that spot to Garcia and will be fighting to stay on the active roster. Chris Clark and Michael Schofield are likely to be the backup tackles, Gino Gradowski’s ability to play center or guard gives him a leg up on Garland for a backup spot and Shelley Smith is clearly ahead of Garland on the depth chart. If the Broncos keep 10 O-linemen, there may still not be room for Garland.
As for the move itself, it certainly will quell some of the worries Bronco fans had about the offensive line. The O-line has been solid as a unit so far this preseason, but having Mathis should certainly make it better.
(Updated to include Shelley Smith as a depth player.)