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2021 free agent preview: Do the Broncos have a need on their offensive line?

When March 17 arrives and the new league year officially begins, teams across the league will be able to add an influx of talent to their roster.

As General Manager George Paton enters his first free-agency period, the Broncos could choose to add to their roster in several key areas. Over the coming days, we'll evaluate some of the top options who are poised to enter the open market.

We continue with the position group upon which the whole offense relies: the offensive line.

THE TACKLES

TRENT WILLIAMS, TAYLOR MOTON, ALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA, DARYL WILLIAMS, RICKY WAGNER

A year ago, Broncos fans perhaps imagined Denver would be on the hunt for a left tackle during the 2021 offseason. That possibility quickly disappeared as Garett Bolles turned a corner. The Broncos signed him to an extension, and left tackle is no longer a need in Denver. That likely rules out talented players like eight-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams and two-time Pro Bowler Alejandro Villanueva. It's theoretically possible the Broncos could shift Bolles to right tackle or move a left tackle on the open market to the right side, but it doesn't seem remotely likely. That leaves right tackles Taylor Moton, Daryl Williams and Ricky Wagner as some of the more likely options.

Moton, Pro Football Focus' top-rated right tackle in this year's class, has been a consistent player over the last couple of seasons. The 2017 second-round pick spent the first four years of his career in Carolina, and he's been whistled for just 10 penalties as a starter. In the last two years, he's been called for just two holding penalties as he's played nearly every snap.

Williams and Wagner are also Top 100 options. Williams, also a former Panther, has had an up-and-down career but played all 16 games for the Bills in 2020. "His peakis very high, but it's a gamble for any team to chase it," PFF writes. Wagner, meanwhile, was a strong pass blocker for the Packers in 2020 after Green Bay moved on from Bryan Bulaga. A veteran player, Wagner has played 16 games just once since 2015.

THE GUARDS

BRANDON SCHERFF, JOE THUNEY

There are more top-end players in this year's class at the guard position. Scherff and Thuney are each among the top 13 players in this year's class, according to PFF's rankings.

Scherff, who played the 2020 on the franchise tag for Washington, has been a consistent player during his six-year career and is equally impressive in the pass game as he is in the run game. He has been named to four Pro Bowls in his career and earned his first first-team All-Pro nod in 2020.

Thuney also played the 2020 season on the franchise tag, and he was particularly productive in pass protection. As the team's left guard, he allowed just two sacks last season, according to PFF. He also helped the Patriots develop a strong rushing attack to the left side. Thuney showed versatility, as well; he played center for a pair of games in place of an injured teammate. Thuney doesn't have the Pro Bowl accolades that Scherff holds, but he has not missed a game in his five-year career and is another top-end option.

WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR THE BRONCOS?

It's hard to imagine the Broncos making a move at any position other than guard or right tackle. Bolles is the entrenched starter at left tackle, and Lloyd Cushenberry III showed promise as a rookie at center. Right tackle Ja'Wuan James, a 2019 free-agent signing, remains under contract but has appeared in just three games for Denver. He struggled with injuries during his first season with the team and then opted out of the 2020 campaign. If the team wants to reshuffle the right tackle position, Denver could look for a right tackle on the open market or the draft. Another potential option — which could lead to Denver looking for a guard — would be to move Dalton Risner out to the right. He was an All-American right tackle in college at Kansas State.

In all likelihood, the Broncos will be quiet at this position in free agency. The team has dedicated resources in free agency and the draft in recent years and has assembled a solid starting lineup and core of reserve players. If the team retains Elijah Wilkinson — who is slated to be an unrestricted free agent — it could be their biggest move at the position group.

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