(Note: I wrote this yesterday, but needed to verify figures at Over the Cap. Even though the Broncos lost today and most of you will be talking about that, it’s still worth sharing this, because regardless of what we think about the QB position, we know there are other areas on offense that need addressing.)
As we know, the offensive line remains a concern for the Denver Broncos; specifically, the positions of right tackle and left guard. And with recent injuries to three players who have played right tackle — regardless of their ability level — the Broncos find themselves thin on the line.
So the question as to whether or not the Broncos should trade for an offensive linemen. But with quality linemen in short supply, it may not be that easy to acquire a good player.
But then comes the rumor that the Broncos are talking to the Buffalo Bills, who happen to have an offensive lineman that they would like to trade, left tackle Cordy Glenn. It’s worth examining whether or not such a trade is a good idea.
The first thing we need to keep in mind is that any lineman the Broncos acquire is going to need to play right tackle because that’s where the Broncos need help the most. Moving Garett Bolles to the right side is not an option. First, he’s playing too well at left tackle to move from that position (aside from today’s game against the Chargers). Second, it’s not a good idea to be moving him around at this time because moving him around could do more harm than good for his development.
Let’s keep in mind as well that moving a player around on the line as an experiment isn’t the best idea in today’s NFL, with one exception that I will get to in a minute. But it’s important to remember that the last time the Broncos took a guy who played left tackle the majority of his career and moved him to the right side and it worked out well happened back in 1997, when they did that with Tony Jones. What made that different was the original intent was for Jones to play left tackle, but Gary Zimmerman opted to return for another season, so the Broncos gradually worked Zimmerman into games (he missed the preseason) to get him up to speed while having Jones alternate sides and Harry Swayne take snaps at right tackle when Zimmerman wasn’t out there. Over time, the Broncos got settled into their offensive line scheme and played better down the stretch.
We must also remember that, at the time, the mindset of many NFL teams was to find a running back who could carry the load and that the shift to emphasizing the passing game was only beginning. Consequently, defenses focused more on stopping the run than rushing the passer — you certainly had quality pass rushers playing, but most teams didn’t rely on multiple pass rushers and would instead rely on blitzing to create pressure when needed.
That’s no longer the case in today’s NFL — all you have to do to notice a point in which things didn’t work out when a team moved a left tackle to the right side for a new season was the Broncos doing that with Chris Clark. He struggled with both run blocking and pass protection and the Broncos made a change, only to put Louis Vasquez at right tackle and he didn’t have much success there, either.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that such moves are guaranteed to fail and there are plenty of offensive tackles out there who are better than Clark. But if you’re going to look for somebody to try out at right tackle, who doesn’t play the position at this point, you want to look for somebody who has had to make a positional switch during his career and did a reasonably good job with it.
And that brings us back to Cordy Glenn.
I had a conversation on Twitter with Mile High Huddle’s Erick Treckel about the Bills and the offensive linemen they had. Treckel favored the idea of acquiring Glenn. I was skeptical of the move, thinking Jordan Mills might be a better player to acquire because he already plays right tackle. But Treckel pointed out that the Bills re-signed Mills this past offseason and think he can be part of the team’s future plans. Given that Mills is doing reasonably well, and that the Bills have () as somebody they like for the left side, it makes more sense that the Bills would want to move Glenn.
Glenn was drafted as a guard and kicked out to left tackle out of necessity. But he settled into the position and played well. He’s not a top option at left tackle — I think he’s more of a second-tier player — but he’s had experience with being moved from a position he played in college into another position and handled the transition well. So it’s worth asking if Glenn could handle a transition to right tackle.
Given that the Bills want to move Glenn, he’s likely to come cheaper than other offensive tackles who teams aren’t that eager to trade. The Texans don’t really want to move Duane Brown and the only issue there is that Brown wants more money and the Texans aren’t going to renegotiate his deal. That would explain why the Texans have put their asking price high (reportedly a first-round pick) and, even if you acquire Brown, you have to deal with his salary demands. Players such as Joe Thomas (who got injured today, so I’m sure nobody will be asking about him) and Joe Staley were only dangled in front of teams by general managers whose jobs were on the line, and I maintain to this day that those GMs were trying to impress their owners with a big haul of draft picks. At this point, the teams they play for aren’t showing urgency in wanting to move those players.
More to the point, Thomas (even though injured) is definitely an elite tackle, Staley is arguably one and you can argue that Brown is a first-tier guy. The first-tier guys are the ones I’d be hesitant to move around, because they are so used to playing left tackle that they might not be able to make the transition so easily — especially because they were all drafted to play left tackle and have spent most of their NFL careers at that position.
So it makes more sense to take a chance on a player that a team really wants to move, especially when that player has had to transition from one position to another during his NFL career.
With all that said, the question comes about what the Bills would be seeking in a trade. I imagine they would like a third-round pick, but they might be willing to take a draft pick and a player. Were it not for several of the Broncos’ offensive linemen nursing injuries, I would have offered a fourth-round pick and Donald Stephenson, who at least gives the Bills a veteran swing tackle who has some familarity with Rick Dennison. But Stephenson’s injury makes it tough to deal him, even when packaged with a draft pick.
There is another player who could be dealt, though. Virgil Green is in the final year of his contract and, while a good blocker, hasn’t produced in the receiving game as expected. With Jake Butt practicing and likely to be activated from the non-football injury list, Green becomes a player worth trading.
And given that the Bills are without tight end Charles Clay (who is on IR with a knee injury), they could be looking for a veteran tight end, given that the rest of their tight ends are inexperienced. So sending Green and a fifth-round pick to the Bills for Glenn is a possibility.
The Broncos have the cap space to take on Glenn’s remaining 2017 salary and would get back some space by dealing Green. Glenn has $5.625M in base salary remaining this year, which would apply to the $11M in cap space the Broncos have at this time. They would only have to eat a small dead money charge for Green ($500,000), while the Bills would take the dead money charge for Glenn. And trading Green would free up $1.75M in cap space (his remaining salary), so it works out to the Broncos using $3.875M in cap space this season, leaving the Broncos with $7.125M in space.
Next year, Glenn is due a $9.25M base salary and $2M as a roster bonus (which Jason Fitzgerald assumes to be for being active on game day), which is guaranteed for injury only. The Broncos would be able to accommodate the full salary under next year’s cap and, if Glenn works out, they wouldn’t have to pursue a big-money offensive lineman in free agency. They could look for a veteran for depth, then draft a player who could play left guard.
If Glenn didn’t work out at right tackle, the Broncos could consider moving him to guard, the position he was drafted to play. If that happened, the Broncos might be able to get Glenn to take a pay cut, in which he takes less money in exchange for the salary being fully guaranteed and the chance to earn some of it back through incentives. That still allows the Broncos to sign a cheap player for depth, draft a right tackle early and consider drafting a lineman late.
Regardless of how Glenn works out, the Broncos will be free to cut Stephenson after the season, given that his 2018 salary isn’t guaranteed. They can also cut Menelik Watson, whose salary doesn’t become guaranteed until he’s on the roster on the fifth day of the 2018 league year — in other words, it’s not an injury-guaranteed salary. And they could just re-sign Billy Turner to a cheap deal to be the veteran lineman for depth.
I’ll admit I’m still not crazy about the idea of experimenting at right tackle. But given that Glenn has experienced being moved from the position he was drafted to play, to another position, and has handled it well, it might not hurt to acquire him and see if he can do it again. If it doesn’t work out, the Broncos still might have somebody who could play guard for the long term. And if it did work out, the Broncos would have their right tackle. So it might be worth exploring a trade, provided the Broncos don’t give up too much in return.