ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --San Diego's offensive line was in disrepair last year thanks to the worst tackle play in the league, which was on full display when Broncos edge rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for seven sacks and five forced fumbles at Philip Rivers' expense in the teams' two 2012 games.
Louis Vasquez had nothing to do with that.
Vasquez played all 16 games for the Chargers for the first time in his four seasons there, and had his steadiest overall season -- particularly in pass protection, where he allowed just two sacks and one other quarterback hit, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The rest of the offensive line permitted 47 sacks in 2012.
The two sacks allowed is also four fewer than the Broncos' right guards (Chris Kuper and Manuel Ramirez) yielded in 2012.
Vasquez's arrival doesn't just strengthen the Broncos' offensive line, but it cripples the Chargers' unit. San Diego already had howling needs at both tackle slots, and appears to be a good bet to take one of the elite rookie tackle prospects -- Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher or Oklahoma's Lane Johnson -- with its first-round pick, assuming one drops that far. (NOTE: San Diego reportedly agreed to terms with ex-Eagles offensive lineman King Dunlap less than an hour after the Vasquez deal was announced; Dunlap has started at left tackle, right tackle and left guard in his career.)
Now, Vasquez will be protecting Peyton Manning instead of Rivers. At 25, the Broncos should get the best years out of him, and can bank on full health after he missed 10 games his first three seasons.
What this means for the rest of the offensive line is unclear, but the impact could be wide-reaching.
For right tackle Orlando Franklin, it likely means he stays at right tackle instead of moving inside. There had been rumblings that he could be shifted inside, even though his 6-foot-7 frame is taller than optimal for an interior lineman (Vasquez, by comparison, is 6-foot-5).
For left guard Zane Beadles -- the only healthy member of the Broncos' final-game starting offensive line -- it means he's a good bet so remain right where he is. Beadles was the Broncos' most improved offensive lineman last year, and graded out as the 15th-best guard in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
The impact is likely most profound for Chris Kuper, whose 2012 season was wrecked by a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligaments suffered in the 2011 regular-season finale. Kuper suffered a fractured forearm just when he was working his way back into game fitness during training camp, then suffered a high ankle sprain three games after he finally returned to the starting lineup. Further surgery in January places his future in question; he's already slated to miss the entire offseason of work as he recovers from his injuries.
Manny Ramirez, who started most of the season for Kuper, is affected as well, since this likely means he will be a backup at guard and center, behind expected starter J.D. Walton. Ramirez and Vasquez were also teammates at Texas Tech from 2005-06.