The defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos are reportedly set to add depth to their offensive line on Wednesday when the new league year begins.
Adam Schefter of ESPN confirmed the report, while Troy Renck of the Denver Post said he was “hearing a three-year deal” for Stephenson. Renck also pointed out the three-year deal would not rule out a return from offensive tackle Ryan Clady.
Stephenson took to Twitter Tuesday and seemed ready to join the Broncos:
Blessed— Donald Stephenson (@Don59Wayne) March 8, 2016
It would make sense that Stephenson would be excited to sign with the champions. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk said “he’s likely to start for the Broncos next year,” which will be a welcome opportunity for the tackle after he lost his starting gig with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015 to Eric Fisher.
The Chiefs drafted Stephenson in the third round in 2012, and he has spent his entire career with Denver’s AFC West rivals. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, he appeared in 60 games the past four seasons for the Chiefs with 21 starts.
His durability is notable in the physically grinding NFL, and he played all 16 contests in 2012, 2013 and 2015. He may have played all 16 in 2014, but he was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.
This is an important addition for the Broncos in an offseason where they must improve their play up front.
Despite the Broncos' Super Bowl title, Denver’s offensive line was mediocre at best during the 2015 campaign. Football Outsiders ranked the Broncos offensive line as the 17th-best run-blocking group and the 13th-best pass-protection unit in the league, and Chad Jensen of Scout.com called the line’s play “less than stellar.”
Jensen pointed to the struggles of Michael Schofield and Ryan Harris last year but did say “the Broncos will be OK at tackle” if Clady restructures his deal and remains in the Mile High City and Ty Sambrailo recovers from a shoulder injury.
Adding an athletic piece like Stephenson who can fill in at either left or right tackle gives Denver critical depth that will help it solve some of its offensive line concerns from a season ago.