ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The press conference to introduce quarterback Case Keenum had barely ended March 16 when Head Coach Vance Joseph was already answering questions about other items on the Broncos' offseason to-do list -- starting with fortifying the right tackle position.
Last year, four different players started at that spot: Menelik Watson, Allan Barbre, Donald Stephenson and Cyrus Kouandjio. A slim free-agent crop of right tackles offered few potential solutions, but Joseph made it clear that the Broncos needed to bolster the spot.
"We're still searching free agency for help at tackle," Joseph said. "Again, we've got 10 draft picks. It's March 16, guys. We've got a long time to go.
"But I've said this 10 times to you guys: It wasn't just the quarterback. We have to protect the guy -- whoever's playing quarterback for us -- and run the football better, and continue to play better defense. It wasn't just the quarterback."
After the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, some of the top prospects participated in follow-up workouts at their college facilities to further show their talents.
Fixing the offense wasn't just about finding a new quarterback, and the free-agent frenzy isn't just about players with expiring contracts. This year, more than in previous years, it is about a robust trade market, one that has seen the Broncos finalize three deals since the start of the new league year -- including Friday's trade with the Cardinals for Jared Veldheer.
Although Veldheer has spent most of his career at left tackle, he is expected to step into the mix at right tackle. With Stephenson off to Cleveland in free agency and Barbre on the open market, he joins Watson and Kouandjio as veterans who will be in the mix for playing time.
The 2017 season was a frustrating one for Veldheer, who was placed on injured reserve after 13 games because of a fractured ankle. The injury was his second consecutive season-ending issue; he missed the final eight games of the 2016 season because of a torn right triceps muscle.
Those injuries -- and the fact that he has one year left on his contract -- are why he was available for a sixth-round pick. But his experience and leadership will immediately make the Broncos' line better. Not only can Veldheer contribute on the field, but his past experience at left tackle could be valuable if he is called on to help second-year left tackle Garett Bolles mature and live up to his first-round status.
Denver needed help up front. Veldheer provides it.