ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --As far as NFL players go, Will Montgomery is a bit of a late bloomer.
In his first five seasons, spent with the Carolina Panthers, the New York Jets and Washington, Montgomery was usually a backup, starting 15 games of the 52 in which he played in that span. Until joining Washington late in the 2008 season, he had been waived three times in a 14-month span.
But in Washington, Montgomery found a home at center. So even though he's 31, Montgomery has just three seasons of experience as a full-time starter, and has enjoyed good health and solid play. The 6-foot-3, 304-pounder should be at the cusp of his prime years, and his reasonable contract is part of why Washington's decision to release him this month was so unexpected.
With Montgomery in place, the dominoes will fall. Manny Ramirez, a guard who moved to center last year, could shift back to guard, where he'd have the opportunity to replace Zane Beadles, who signed with the Jaguars this offseason. This would also keep Orlando Franklin at right tackle; since the offseason began, there had been speculation that he could be moved to guard, a position he played at the University of Miami.
But Franklin has started all but one game at right tackle since he was drafted in 2011, and keeping him there ensures that the Broncos can field a starting offensive line comprised of players who have started every position before, since Ramirez started 13 games at left guard for the Detroit Lions in the 2008-09 campaigns.
Montgomery can also play the guard positions; he started eight games at right guard in the 2009-10 seasons and three at left guard in 2011. But it was at center where he ascended from versatile backup to solid starter, and as Washington's offense flourished in Robert Griffin III's 2012 rookie season, so did Montgomery, who had the best year of his career. That season, he finished as the league's fifth-highest-rated center in ProFootballFocus.com's metrics, and 11th-best in pass blocking and fourth-best in run-blocking.
The 2013 season was more of a struggle for Montgomery, as it was for the entire Washington offense. With Griffin less mobile following knee surgery, the offensive line allowed him to be sacked once every 15.3 plays (quarterback runs plus pass plays); that ratio was one every 15.3 plays in 2012.
But in Denver, he'll be in front of a quick-firing quarterback and with an offensive line that features two recent first-team All-Pros: left tackle Ryan Clady and right guard Louis Vasquez. There is little reason why Montgomery shouldn't flourish with this offense, once he and Peyton Manning fine-tune their timing and get the calls and checks down pat.