INDIANAPOLIS --After studying the film of the Broncos' 2016 season, Vance Joseph felt the Broncos' offense was better than he had expected.
"Offensively, I think we're close -- not as far [away] as everyone thinks we are," he said.
But the offensive line remains the primary issue.
"We need some help there," he said.
That aid could come from the draft, with a class that Joseph described as "decent," but "not deep." But he wants to make sure a potentially solid line can be set before the draft.
"Free agency is first. It's that way for a reason, in my opinion," Joseph said. "It's that process first, and if we can acquire a guy to help us, it makes the draft a little bit simpler, easier. If you don't, then you have to go out and maybe make some moves to acquire a guy to help you at the offensive line position."
Whoever the Broncos add will work in a scheme that incorporates both zone and gap concepts, reiterating a point made by Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy and Offensive Line Coach Jeff Davidson three weeks ago.
"If you're doing only one thing, teams can wire in and scheme against what you're doing," Joseph said. "But if you're doing both gap schemes and zone schemes, then it makes you tough to defend."
BUILDING PROCESS STARTS BY SETTLING THE TACKLE SPOTS
The position is in flux heading into free agency, but Joseph said he would likely not bank on moving a right tackle to the left side and seeing how he fares.
"Having a true left tackle is like having a lockdown corner. That's different than a right tackle," Joseph said. "It's a different spot. You're facing the best rushers. It's a quarterback's blind side. So I would say, 'No,' to that. We want a left tackle that can play left tackle."
One prospect Joseph likes is Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, but he acknowledged it might be difficult to get him with the No. 20 selection, especially with the scarcity of elite tackles in this year's draft.
Follow Head Coach Vance Joseph and Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway's first day at the 2017 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. (photos by Ben Swanson)
Joseph also opened the door to bringing back Russell Okung, who is set to become a free agent after the Broncos declined to exercise their option on the left tackle who started 16 games last year.
"Obviously he's a veteran player that played pretty [well] last year. But financially, those things come into account when you're trying to sign players back, and doing what's best for the entire team and the entire roster financially is important.
"But he did play [well]. He's a good man, and if we can [possibly] get him back, we can sure try."
The status of right tackle Donald Stephenson is also to be determined. Joseph said he would meet with Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway.
"Well, he's got an option that's coming up -- a guarantee. And that's John's area. I'm meeting with John on Tuesday about that. That's going to be discussed, and again, it depends on what's best for the football team. That's where that lies."