When it comes to filling the Black Hole that is the Broncos’ right tackle position, George Paton has taken the unique, if logical approach of doubling his chances.
Bobby Massie, as it turned out, did not outright win The Great Right Tackle Audition on Wednesday. One day after the veteran free-agent Massie and the Broncos agreed on a one-year contract that has a maximum value of $4 million, Paton reached agreement with another right tackle from the audition, Cameron Fleming, on a one-year deal with a max value of $3.675 million.
So while Massie may have the slight edge in becoming the next in a long line of Broncos’ right tackles, he will have to win a serious challenge from Fleming during training camp and the preseason.
Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater won't be the only 50-50 competition this summer.
Since the start of the 2014 season, the Broncos have had 17 players start at right tackle. Over that 7-year period, Donald Stephenson -- the first in a disturbingly long line of free-agent busts at the position -- made the most right tackle starts with 17.
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The most disappointing right tackle during that period was Ja’Wuan James. He collected $17 million in 2019 yet only played in the first half of three games because of a knee injury. James then became the only Broncos’ projected starter to opt-out of the 2020 season because of the virus. There was hope he would finally give the Broncos some return on their large investment in him this season but James suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last week while working out away from the team’s facility.
Before the Broncos determine how little, if any, of James’ $10.58 million salary and pro-rated $3 million signing bonus to pay, they first had to decide on his replacement. Paton gathered four veteran right tackles for a Wednesday tryout – Massie, Fleming, Dennis Kelly and Jermaine Eluemunor. According to sources, the workouts weren’t extensive. Broncos personnel just wanted to see them around.
Massie, a 9-year right tackle and 8-year starter with Arizona and Chicago, had suffered game-missing injuries the past two seasons, a concern as he turns 32 on August 1. But Massie had the best resume of the foursome and he moved well enough Wednesday to land the first contract.
Meanwhile, Paton continued to keep discussions going with Fleming, a former New England Patriot draft pick who started 16 games for the Giants last year. Fleming had been a part-time starter until last season but he is three years younger than Massie.
It can be argued two veterans the caliber of Massie and Fleming is a more solid option than hoping James could play through a 17-game season after missing two years.
As Massie and Fleming compete at right tackle, third-year player Calvin Anderson will also compete for the backup swing position while Garett Bolles returns for his fifth season as the Broncos’ starting left tackle. The Broncos also gave $150,000 in guarantees to undrafted offensive tackle rookie Drew Himmelman.