American Football

Broncos free agency target: Ethan Pocic


Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal

The Denver Broncos are looking to upgrade their offensive line. Don’t count out center as one of the positions George Paton and Co. might address in free agency.

The Denver Broncos enter this year’s free agency period with a lot of ambiguity on the offensive line.

George Paton has made it clear that upgrading the offensive line will be a priority for the team. While tackle and guard seem like the most obvious positions in need of an upgrade in the Mile High City, finding a center who could prove to be an upgrade and challenge Lloyd Cushenberry and Luke Wattenberg would be a smart move to consider.

Enter Ethan Pocic—the six-year NFL veteran who is recently coming off is best year to date.

Highlighting Pocic’s career to date

Considered one of the best interior offensive linemen in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Ethan Pocic near the end of the second round with the 58th overall selection. He made the Pro Football Writer Association’s All-Rookie team for his efforts as a rookie and appeared in 16 games with 11 starts splitting time between left and right guard.

After a promising rookie campaign, injuries plagued the rest of Pocic’s time with the Seahawks. In the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he played in only 14 games with 5 total starts. He recovered from his season-ending neck strain in 2019 and went to start 24 of 27 games played in his last two years in Seattle. Rather than get development as a full-time center, most of his time with the Seahawks was as a swing offensive lineman capable of playing multiple spots for them.

Unable to secure a long-term deal on the market, the Cleveland Browns signed him to a one-year prove-it-deal last season. Under the tutelage of top-tier offensive line coach Bill Callahan, Pocic didn’t disappoint and easily had the best season of his career to date. PFF graded him as one of the best centers in the league (also one of the least penalized) with a 79 overall grade. Alas, once again, he missed multiple games with a knee injury.

Why he makes sense for the Broncos

The Broncos could use some competition at the center position with only the aforementioned Cushenberry and Wattenberg in the fold. Cushenberry is in the last year of his rookie deal and hasn’t progressed as we all had hoped after being selected in the third-round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Furthermore, it’s quite clear after several showings last season that Wattenberg has a way to go before he is ready to be a full-time NFL starter.

There is no doubt that injuries have been a huge concern with Pocic since entering the league, but if the Broncos could get him in on short-term prove it deal much like he had with the Browns—that wouldn’t be a bad move. He had his best season of his career to date and would give the Broncos a starting-caliber player at the position.

Examining Pocic’s free agent market

According to Spotrac, Pocic’s free agent valuation is at roughly $5M a year on his next deal. Given his string of injuries, it’s certainly possible that his final mark comes in at a bit less, but teams in pursuit of an upgrade at the center position will undoubtedly consider him given his success in 2022.

A long-term deal seems unlikely, but a two-year deal a little bit below or around his estimated market value would be worth considering for Denver. With so many needs elsewhere, it doesn’t seem like the Broncos would spend an early-round draft selection at center. The best option for them would be to consider a veteran on the market who can come in and contribute significant snaps immediately.

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