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Mason's Mailbag: Offensive line, jerseys, draft and more

Posted Feb 12, 2017

The first Sunday without an NFL game after 22 consecutive weeks doesn't mean a Sunday without football.

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.

It seems to me that the Broncos need to focus on the offensive line. Why would we continue to pursue free-agent linemen when it hasn't seemed to work so far. Why not draft O-linemen and let them come up in the system so that we can have good O-lines for the future?

-- Paul Baccus

You can say that free-agent linemen haven't worked for the Broncos, but then you'd overlook the fact that the only guard to earn first-team All-Pro honors as a Bronco, Louis Vasquez, joined the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2013. Or that Ryan Harris returned to the team as a free agent in 2015 and solidified the tackle spot in a pinch after Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending torn ACL.

The draft is part of building the long-term solution, but this year's draft is particularly short on players up front who will be ready this year. I could see as few as three offensive linemen going in the first round, and the paucity of high-level prospects could lead to some overvaluing of players, including Alabama's Cam Robinson, who might go in the top-10 even though he looks more like a mid-to-late-first-rounder.

The best play to rebuild this offensive line on the fly -- and provide the best chance for 2017 -- is to fortify the starting lineup via free agency, and then draft for depth and development, giving the Broncos the luxury of not having to rush younger linemen into the lineup before they're ready unless a wave of injuries strikes.

Are there any serious candidates for the franchise tag this year? With Emmanuel Sanders and Darian Stewart locked down, I can't think of a player that would be worth the $.

-- Matt Nunez

No. Between Sanders, Stewart and Brandon Marshall receiving a long-term extension as a restricted free agent last June, the Broncos took care of their key retention work last year, and there are no viable franchise-tag candidates on the roster.

Is there any chance that we switch our home jerseys back to blue & the Orange to Alternate because of the so-called "curse " of the orange in the Super Bowl?

-- David A.

No, because there's certainly not a similar "curse" in the regular season and in postseason games played at home. The Broncos have gone 83-38 (.686) at home in blue jerseys since 1997, and 37-13 (.740) in orange jerseys at home in that span -- with both tallies including postseason results. (They're 1-0 in home games played in white jerseys since 1997.)

That said, it would not surprise me one bit if the Broncos chose to wear white if they make it to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis next February, since the AFC champion will have its choice of jerseys. But I would expect that to be the extent of choosing not to wear orange (except when the Broncos wear their blue alternate jerseys).

As I have mentioned in this space before, orange is a unique identity, as the Broncos are the league's only team using orange as their primary home jersey color. Seven other teams have navy blue as their primary color on their regular non-white jerseys, and 13 wear some shade of blue as either a primary or alternate jersey color.

Why be one of many when you can stand out on your own?

If Paxton Lynch needs help with footwork, why doesn't he go to a boxing gym and get some training? Tom Brady did it, it seemed to help him?

-- Robert Martinez

Because boxing and better footwork when throwing aren't appreciably connected. Boxing can help with quickness, conditioning, balance and the ability to avoid contact, but the footwork required to throw a football is completely different than anything in boxing.

A lot of people have been predicting the Broncos taking an offensive lineman in the first round of the Draft. I believe the Broncos should take the best player on the board with the 20th pick and by that I believe a McCaffrey or Cook should go to the Broncos if they are still available. What do you think?

-- Ethan Stanton

In an ideal situation, you should always take the best player available -- but you must be in position to do so. That's what makes free agency so crucial; if you can use that to plug lineup holes and get the squad to where you have a starting lineup with which you feel you can succeed, then you have the freedom to add players at areas that do not seem to be obvious needs. Look at the first-round selection of Shane Ray in 2015 as an example; that choice seems to be working out well.

As for the two players you mention, I could see Christian McCaffrey falling to the No. 20 pick, but I don't see that being the case for Dalvin Cook.

A key moment in the home defeat to the Chiefs last season was the illegal formation penalty imposed on the Broncos during a Chiefs field goal attempt. This ultimately resulted in the Chiefs scoring a touchdown, instead of the field goal. Can you explain to me who was at fault for the penalty -- did the players on field mess up, were the coaches at fault, or was it a deliberate ploy that the Broncos gambled they would get away with?

-- Neil Galbraith

There was nothing deliberate about it. According to then-Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis, it was a "horrible mistake to make at that time" by one player lining up on the wrong side of the center.

Could you see the Broncos trading away the first-round pick?
-- Joel Rinlee

Anything is possible, and John Elway has done it before, dealing the pick in 2012 to move down for extra selections. But the value of getting the fifth-year option on a first-round pick -- and thus giving you cost control for five seasons on any Round 1 selection, rather than four years for players taken in the second round and beyond -- makes it less appetizing to trade that selection.

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.

Mason's Mailbag


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