DENVER — Matt Paradis developed from a practice squad grinder into one of the game's most dependable centers. But a 2018 leg injury created a difference of opinion on his value with the Broncos moving forward. Tuesday, he agreed in principle on a three-year, $27-million deal with the Carolina Panthers with $11.5 million in his first season and $13.5 million guaranteed.
The idea of Paradis leaving once seemed implausible. However, the seeds for his departure were planted last summer when the sides held dramatically different views on the value of a longterm contract. Following Tampa Bay's signing of Ryan Jensen to a four-year, $42-million deal last March, the floor was set in talks. Paradis' camp, understandably so, wanted a similar deal. The Broncos disagreed, and the talks were tabled. Then came Paradis' first injury to cause him to miss time, complicating matters this offseason.
After playing nearly 4,000 consecutive snaps, Paradis fractured his fibula in multiple places against Houston on Nov. 4. He has healed ahead of schedule, and will begin jogging in roughly two weeks. He has long believed that the nature of the injury -- a broken bone -- brought more certainty in recovery. For Broncos, the broken leg created pause, leaving them far apart on his value as early as of Tuesday morning. Paradis never closed any doors, but wanted to reach a certain threshold in free agency.
"I loved playing in Denver," Paradis told Denver7 recently. "But I have to see what's out there."
The Jets showed interest, but the Panthers made a late push. For Paradis, the move makes sense. He receives a deal befitting his career accomplishments, while playing for a contender. Paradis won the Broncos Ed Block Courage Award after playing through hip issues that required surgery on both legs but never led to him missing games. His teammates elected him an offensive captain last season. Paradis' departure leaves a question mark at center. Connor McGovern is the in-house favorite. He played well against the Chargers, but admittedly struggled in a crushing loss against the Niners where he said he struggled with his pre-snap line adjustments.
As it stands today, the Broncos offensive line is as follows: left tackle Garett Bolles, left guard Ron Leary, center McGovern, right guard Elijah Wilkinson and right tackle Ja'wuan James.