Another season completed and another year of movement along the offensive line. The Denver Broncos’ offensive front in the trenches is once again in transition.
From the departure of Interior O-Line Coach Sean Kugler to the Cardinals and potentially Tackles Coach Chris Strausser to Cleveland, and the huge addition of renowned Pittsburgh O-Line Coach and former Broncos’ head coach finalist Mike Munchak, things are changing in Denver up front, and hopefully for the better.
With the addition of Vic Fangio, reportedly a big proponent of a more power and gap-based blocking scheme on offense, a new offensive coordinator (potentially Niners’ QBs Coach Rich Scangarello), and of course Mike Munchak, the philosophy and the trajectory of the Broncos’ offensive line should be trending up. However, the actual O-Line itself is far from settled.
Too many pieces up in the air
First and foremost, the unit starts with center Matt Paradis. Despite ending the year on the injured reserve with a broken leg, Paradis’ loss was felt this season and likely will be a huge priority signing for the Broncos.
Jared Veldheer, whom the Broncos traded for this past offseason from Arizona, also is set to hit free agency. Despite his up and down season, Veldheer offered the Broncos’ their best play at right tackle since Orlando Franklin pre-Super Bowl, or perhaps even dating as far back as Ryan Harris.
While the O-Line personnel will undoubtedly be in flux this offseason as some players will leave and some will be added via free agency and the Draft, the Broncos would be wise to retain the services of offensive lineman Billy Turner. Claimed off the waiver wire two seasons ago from the Miami Dolphins, the former third-round selection struggled mightily during his time at South Beach. However, his play and growth over the last few seasons warrants the discussion if Miami moved on from the day two selection too early.
Approaching his peak/prime
At just 27 years of age, Billy Turner should be just approaching his peak as an offensive lineman. Coming from North Dakota State, Billy Turner required a massive learning curve to adjust from Division II level pass rushers to NFL stars on the defensive front. Entering the league, while Turner possessed the physical stature to play in the NFL, his technique in his kick slide and lower body, as well as his ability to bend his knees, was a mess. These technical deficiencies remained early in his career, leading to struggles and ultimately leading to Miami moving on from him.
In Denver though, Turner was given a second chance. Over the last season and a half, Turner has flashed the athletic tools that warranted a top-100 selection. Turner possess the size and length needed to play tackle when need be, but also has the power and hand technique to play in a phone booth inside.
When filling in for the injured Veldheer early in the season, Turner played well as the right tackle position didn’t seem to miss much of a beat. When Ronald Leary and then backup Max Garcia went down, Turner slid to left guard and played arguably the best ball of his career on the interior.
Turner never dominated this season, as technical issues still led to some lapses in his blocking from time to time. He doesn’t possess any outstanding traits as far as athleticism, size, or power. However, Turner showed steady improvement over the course of the season and showed enough to warrant consideration as a viable starter for an NFL team both at right tackle and inside at guard.
Given how frequent injuries can plague offensive lines, having a player like Turner is huge for the flexibility of a team, not only as far as free agency and the Draft are concerned, as it will not handicap Denver from adding offensive line talent in the Draft as Turner can slide over to different positions as need be.
Turner’s youth, continued growth, promise of a higher upside, and positional versatility, should place him high on the list of players the Broncos should want to retain this offseason. From right tackle, to left guard, to super flexible substitute, Turner’s value is underrated and he may well end up one of the better value signings this offseason if Denver does in fact retain the offensive lineman under Munchak.