DENVER -- Missing the playoffs left them on guard.
Among the Broncos' multiple concerns, offensive line ranks at the top. Denver could boast as many as four new offensive linemen this season, having already parted ways with left tackle Russell Okung. With the combine this week in Indianapolis, allowing for a closer examination of top draft prospects and for executives to formulate plans and talk trades, the Broncos' offseason will begin to come into sharper focus.
General manager John Elway said he will attempt to fix the offensive line. The issue is through what avenue or avenues? Guard provides plenty of enticing free agent options, in contrast to the week tackle class. The Broncos will pursue linemen in free agency, but if they can't get a top tackle like Cincinnati's Andrew Whitworh will they shift focus to guard? Last season's starters were Michael Schofield, who was serviceable and remains decent at run blocking, and Max Garcia, who could be more suited to offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's power scheme after struggling with maddening inconsistencies with zone blocking concepts.
A look at the top options at guard, starting in Cincinnati:
Kevin Zeitler, Bengals:
By any metric, Zeitler is a stud. He enters his prime playing his best football. He has appeared in every game the past two seasons, and ranks a top-10 performer. He is strong in pass and run blocking. The Bengals face a difficult choice they if try to keep Whitworth, another Broncos' target, and Zeitler. There's growing speculation Zeitler will leave in free agency. He will get paid. Spotrac projects Zeitler to receive a five-year, $58 million deal. After accounting for the rookie draft pool, the Broncos should have approximately $34 to $36 million in cap space.
T.J. Lang, Packers:
A veteran who is reliable and predictable. He is the type of player who can settle down a line with his steadiness. Lang continues to say he would like to stay in Green Bay, but the Packers might not be able to keep him. Lang remains a strong pass protector. He projects to receive a four-year, $33.7 million deal, according to Spotrac.
Ronald Leary, Cowboys:
Leary took over for the injured La'el Collins and capitalized on the opportunity last season. He delivered a career year as he enters free agency. He represents a sound all-around player with upside. His market value: four years, $36.4 million.
Larry Warford, Lions:
Warford could provide a much-needed lift in the run game. The Broncos finished 27th in rushing at 92.8 yards per game. Warford, 25, is a physical presence. However, caution exists as he did not play well in 2015. He projects at five-year, $31.1 million.
Austin Pasztor, Browns:
He has improved throughout his career, evolving from a backup to starter. He has versatility, capable of playing tackle and guard. He is not as highly regarded as the elite guards, but could be a sleeper addition. His projected contract is four years, $21 million.