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What It Means: Broncos add Gino Gradkowski

Gino Gradkowski did not start for the Ravens while Gary Kubiak was his offensive coordinator and Rick Dennison his offensive line coach. In fact, he played just 10 snaps on offense in 2014, one season after starting all 16 games under then-offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, now the head coach in Detroit.

Relegated to a reserve role after the Ravens traded for Jeremy Zuttah last year, Gradkowski has another chance to compete for a starting job after joining the Broncos, but he's just one part of a wide-open field that includes former starter Manny Ramirez, 2014 sixth-round pick Matt Paradis and guards Ben Garland and Shelley Smith, both of whom could factor in at center.

Few positions will merit closer scrutiny during organized team activities this spring than center, which appears to be wide-open. Kubiak noted last week that how the center depth chart unfolds could help determine the role of Smith, who he would like to see play guard, but could go to center in a pinch.

Take a look at new Broncos center Gino Gradkowski from his NFL experience with the Ravens.

"How the center position pans out probably has a lot to do with that," Kubiak said at the league meetings March 23. "We have multiple players that we think are swing players."

Gradkowski's presence appears to reduce the chances of that happening.

He projects to a zone-blocking scheme. He's smaller than the average NFL center, but has good lateral agility, footwork and intelligence. He played through a cartilage issue in his knee during the 2013 season and had surgery to repair it the following offseason.

What the Broncos will bank upon is improvement from the 2013 season, when he started all 16 games, but took some time to become comfortable in the role. Gradkowski settled down in the second half of that season.

After allowing an average of 2.29 quarterback hurries per game in his first seven starts (per, Gradkowski allowed just one per game in the nine that followed. He also allowed just one sack in the last 12 games of the 2013 season after conceding two in the first four.

After a year working with Gradkowski, Kubiak, Dennison and the Broncos are banking on his practice-field progress from 2014 propelling him to bigger things. But he's just one potential solution at a position that will be defined by heavy competition in the next few months.

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