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Donald Stephenson restructures contract, provides depth at tackle spot

Posted: 10:42 AM, Mar 12, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-12 17:21:22Z

DENVER -- The Broncos found a compromise, but not a solution.

On Sunday, Donald Stephenson restructured his contract, guaranteeing him $2 million, and an additional $2 million if he makes the 53-man roster, according to an NFL source. He provides depth at the tackle positions after losing his job at the right tackle spot in his first season in Denver. 

However, there remains a strong probability the Broncos' starting left tackle is not yet on the roster given the team's 10 draft picks and the possibility, if unlikely, of a trade. Denver prioritized reshaping the personality of its offensive line this offseason. The Broncos signed Cowboys guard Ronald Leary, a noted tough guy, and right tackle Menelik Watson. Watson, who must show he can stay healthy, symbolized the change when he boasted, "If the (offensive line) is getting into something, I am getting into something. If they are throwing punches, I am throwing punches." Leary summed up it thusly when talking about the work of the Cowboys' line a year ago: "Once everybody decided that we were going to be bullies, that made it a lot easier. It becomes fun."

In Stephenson's case, he never gained traction last season after suffering a calf injury during the second game. Signed for his comfort in the zone block system, Stephenson started, but couldn't hold the job. Ty Sambrailo replaced him at New Orleans and held the No. 1 spot against Kansas City a week later until Justin Houston turned him into a human turnstile. Stephenson returned and held the spot for the final month. 

However, Stephenson's $4 million contract brought speculation he would be cut in advance of Monday's deadline to guarantee a spot. The Broncos worked out a way to keep him in the competition which includes, for now, Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield.

There is also optimism within the Broncos building that new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and a return to a power blocking scheme can accelerate improvement. 

Nothing has changed in the Tony Romo drama. The Broncos are not interested in trading for the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, but are expected to have interest if he's released. The Broncos' offseason additions have left them room to make another significant move. 

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