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How Ronald Leary landed in Denver and can help the Broncos

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Take a look back at the Broncos' top 10 modern-era free-agent signings, as ranked by an average rating from the digital media office. (AP Images)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Denver offers Ron Leary an opportunity that Dallas, with its stacked offensive-line complement, could not: a chance to be the clear No. 1 option at one of the guard positions.

Most of his five seasons with the Cowboys were spent trying to prove himself after breaking into the NFL as an undrafted signee from Memphis. Fifteen of the 17 weeks of Leary's rookie season saw him on the Cowboys' practice squad.

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By the 2013 season, Leary became the Cowboys' starter at left guard, and remained there through a 2014 season in which Dallas' offensive line emerged as the league's best. But by 2015, Leary had injuries, and the Cowboys had La'el Collins -- a potential first-round pick who fell out of the draft entirely, but then stepped in for an injured Leary and played like the top prospect he was.

By the time Leary returned for 2016, Collins had taken his left guard job. But Collins suffered a left toe injury, pushing Leary back into the lineup -- and the Cowboys' line and ground game did not miss a beat.

According to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last summer, Leary requested a trade prior to the 2016 season. But he stayed, and it ended up being the best move for the team -- and now, the player. Being a key component of an offensive line that is perhaps the best of this decade made the life-changing contract he got from the Broncos possible.

Leary's extensive left guard experience makes him a perfect fit there. But that could necessitate a shift for Max Garcia, who could find himself shifting to right guard. That is a spot at which he worked in spurts during his rookie season as he shuffled between left and right guard in relief of then-first teamers Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez.

Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway noted last week that the shift away from a pure zone-blocking system to one that incorporates zone and power techniques should help Garcia.

But that also made Leary a perfect fit, as his ability to drive and attack off the snap instantly gives a jolt of energy to a running game that struggled for most of the 2016 season.

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