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Mason's Mailbag: Hall of Fame, O-line and more

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.*

Rod Smith is or is at least the best undrafted WR, with the logjam at WR for HOF votes, do you think he gets in? If so how soon? With the lack of safety love does Atwater get in? How long will he wait?

-- Hunter Cox

The backlog at wide receiver and the difficulty the Hall selection committee is having with properly evaluating receivers from the modern game does not help Rod Smith's cause. You have five Hall-of-Fame-eligible players who are not in that had more career yards, receptions and touchdowns than Smith -- and three of those five didn't even make the list of finalists (Hines Ward, Torry Holt and Irving Fryar). Isaac Bruce and Terrell Owens were finalists this year, and next year, Randy Moss almost certainly will be a finalist, and with 156 touchdown catches, more than any wide receiver not named Jerry Rice, he is a virtual lock for induction.

The undrafted status is a great storyline, but in the discussion of accomplishments, draft status (or the lack thereof) isn't going to make a difference. I'd love to see Smith make it, but realistically, I don't see it happening.

As for Atwater, he's been a finalist before, and the first step is to make him a finalist again. Safeties remain terribly underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, and the induction of seniors committee nominee Kenny Easley is only a first step in correcting this oversight. The issue for Atwater is the other safeties who are also under consideration; John Lynch and Brian Dawkins were both finalists last year. Lynch is a four-time finalist. In 2019, Ed Reed is eligible. In 2020, Troy Polamalu becomes eligible. Unfortunately, their arrival into the pool may affect the case for Atwater, which places some urgency to get Atwater's case back into the finalists' room in 2018. Otherwise, his case might have to wait until he passes into the seniors pool in 2024.

As ever, I continue to advocate a once-a-decade, 19-person class to ease the logjams that exist at so many spots. Doing so in 2019 for the NFL's 100th season would be logical. This wouldn't be a cure-all, but it would be a good first step.

We all saw the struggles of the O-line last year, how big of an upgrade do you think this year´s O-line will be? I think it is the key for a play off appearance.

-- Mathias Harling

Looking at the first team in particular, I was encouraged by its play Thursday and saw the foundation of an improved group. There were more positives than negatives, particularly in its run-blocking. Although the first-play sack allowed by Menelik Watson was an early setback, I felt he recovered well; watch his work on the next play to help spring C.J. Anderson for a 6-yard gain to see just how he was able to compartmentalize what happened and move past it.

Connor McGovern looked solid at center, and I liked how he helped guide Garett Bolles away after a dustup that led to offsetting penalties. The offseason work with the first team forced McGovern to step up in every way. He looks like a keeper -- and could be at least the top interior backup as Matt Paradis returns to the starting role at center. Bolles played well in his first start; he was tenacious, as expected.

There will be some ups and downs; its growth will not necessarily be on a straight line. Don't expect perfection in the early going. But it appears as if the Broncos have the foundation to cultivate a much better line this year than last year.

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Any ideas as to how the team plans to replace Billy Winn this year? Free agent, trade, somebody already on the roster?**

-- George Johnson

In the short term, Zach Kerr, a free-agent signee from the Colts, should see more extensive work rotating in at nose tackle, in addition to working at defensive end. Kyle Peko, who is currently on the physically-unable-to-perform list, could also factor into the rotation once he returns to health. Adam Gotsis will also have more asked of him. But the Broncos have sometimes added veterans to the mix late in camp and after the final cutdown -- look at Keith Brooking and Dan Koppen in 2012 and Paris Lenon in 2013 as examples -- so they will certainly investigate the open market and trade possibilities if they see a need.

With WR being a deep position (I'm sure we'll cut a couple that will end up on someone else's roster), is it very likely that we could get a trade or two going with needy teams (Houston comes to mind) for some late-round picks before the regular season starts?

-- Stephen Phelps

Well, the thumb injury suffered by Carlos Henderson changes the dynamic a bit. And wide receiver is a hard position from which to trade at this time of year, because this is a position at which many teams feel they have a surplus of regular-season-caliber talent. As a result, if you make a trade at this time of year, you don't often get proper value in return. While you don't dismiss any possibility, I don't see a trade as likely.

The NFL should have 30 minutes of halftime instead of 15 minutes during the regular season. Agree?

-- Princess Candle

Disagree. First of all, halftime is 12 minutes during the regular season, not 15. Second of all, games are long enough under the current halftime rules, and tweaks have been made to improve the pace of play.

Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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