Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the game at Levi’s Stadium on Sept. 26, 2021, in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
George Paton minced no words at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“Obviously, we need to upgrade the offensive line,” the Broncos general manager told reporters in Indianapolis two weeks ago.
So when the NFL’s two-day negotiating period opened Monday morning ahead of the official start to the new league year and free agency period Wednesday, Paton and Denver got right to work.
The Broncos threw major resources into their offensive front line, agreeing to long-term contracts with former San Francisco right tackle Mike McGlinchey and former Baltimore guard Ben Powers, league sources confirmed to The Post.
McGlinchey is receiving a five-year contract worth up to $87.5 million that comes with $50 million guaranteed, while Powers can earn up to $52 million over his four-year contract and gets $28.5 million guaranteed, sources told The Post.
The salary cap ramifications were not immediately clear — Denver entered with more than $32 million in cap space for 2023, seventh-most in the NFL — but the Broncos likely have plenty of spending power remaining to sign more players. Powers, according to an ESPN report, is getting a $13 million signing bonus and has just a $2 million base salary in 2023, meaning his cap hit could be as low as $5.25 million in 2023.
They were part of a major spending spree for Paton, head coach Sean Payton and the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group. Denver agreed to terms with six players — McGlinchey, Powers, linebacker Alex Singleton, defensive lineman Zach Allen, quarterback Jarrett Stidham and tight end Chris Manhertz — and committed more than $128 million in guaranteed money in the process. The total upper-end value of the six contracts as reported Monday: $219.25 million.
The two largest by total value, perhaps not coincidentally given Payton’s 15 years in New Orleans of investing heavily up front, came on the offensive line.
McGlinchey and Powers are tasked with bringing stability and power to an offensive line group that shuttled through 10 different starting combinations thanks to injury in 2022.
McGlinchey (6-foot-8, 310 pounds) was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 draft and after five years and 69 starts with the 49ers has a chance to end Denver’s decade-long revolving door at right tackle. The Broncos have had a different starter at the position each year dating back to 2013 and hope the 28-year-old from Notre Dame is the man to end the streak.
Powers, meanwhile, had to perform well a year ago just to make Baltimore’s roster, but then started every game at left guard in 2022 and turned himself into one of the most coveted interior offensive linemen to hit the market this year. The 6-foot-4, 338-pounder is 26 and was drafted in the fourth round in 2019 out of Oklahoma.
McGlinchey’s average annual value of $17.5 million per season puts him around the top five for right tackles in the NFL, while Powers’ $13 million average value will end up around the top 10 in football.
Powers can and has played both guard positions, but plugging him into Dalton Risner’s left guard spot makes sense, especially if Payton and new offensive line coach Zach Strief intend to keep third-year man Quinn Meinerz at right guard. That would give the Broncos a current on-paper starting quintet of left tackle Garett Bolles, Powers, Lloyd Cushenberry at center, Meinerz and McGlinchey.
The incoming pair are each regarded as being among the best run-blockers in the league. According to ESPN’s run block win rate stat, Powers (79%) was second in the NFL among guards and McGlinchey (81%) was fifth among tackles in 2022. Powers came a long way over the past year in pass protection, finishing 10th in the NFL among guards in pass block win rate (94%) among guards.
McGlinchey was considered the No. 12 overall available free agent and top right tackle, according to NFL Network, while Powers checked as the top guard at No. 40.
They represent an expected overhaul up front under Payton and provide the Broncos with not only big names but also playoff experience and years playing for organizations accustomed to winning.
McGlinchey has started in six postseason games including a Super Bowl in 2020 against Kansas City, while Powers started two playoff games for Baltimore in 2021 and the Ravens’ 24-17 loss to Cincinnati in January.
“Discipline, toughness, football makeup and character are going to be really important for who is a Denver Bronco,” Payton said when he was introduced as the head coach in February. “… There’s a means to how everyone arrived here from a playing perspective. We have draft picks, we have free agents, we have undrafted free agents. That’s the method to procure the talent. Once they’re here, none of that matters.”
That might be true, but the Broncos will certainly lean heavily on McGlinchey and Powers going forward.
Denver entered free agency with six linemen set to hit the market after cutting Graham Glasgow on Friday. He joined Risner, Cam Fleming, Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton and Billy Turner in entering free agency.
That means Denver is likely to continue looking to add to its front-line group in the coming days and weeks via free agency — Fleming and/or Anderson, in particular, could make sense as swing tackle options — but the opening salvo was a substantial one.
Denver still could address the offensive line in late April’s NFL Draft, as well, though with only five picks currently and none until the top of the third round, the Broncos clearly considered it necessary to shore up their top line via free agency first.
Broncos get aggressive
The Broncos wasted little time making big changes at the start of the two-day negotiating period, agreeing to terms with four players, including a pair of big additions up front. Here’s a look at all the player movement from Monday:
|Mike McGlinchey||RT||San Francisco|
|Jarrett Stidham||QB||Las Vegas|
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