In a rare showing of his cards, Denver Broncos general manager George Paton admitted last month he “always” prefers to have 10 picks heading into each year’s NFL draft. He fulfilled his desire in 2021, nabbing — you guessed it! — 10 players including long-term building blocks such as cornerback Patrick Surtain II, running back Javonte Williams, guard Quinn Meinerz, and linebacker Baron Browning.
But, with nine days until the 2022 draft, Paton is a single pick shy of satisfying the annual goal.
So, how can he hit his magic number? By dealing away talent. Who might that talent be? Perhaps center Lloyd Cushenberry, whom Bleacher Report projected landing with the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fourth-round choice.
“Last year, Lloyd Cushenberry III played 1,039 snaps at center for the Broncos,” wrote columnist Gary Davenport. “He wasn’t great—Cushenberry allowed five sacks and struggled somewhat in run-blocking. But Cushenberry has been a full-time starter each of the past two seasons and would add some badly needed experience and versatility to a Jaguars line that struggled a season ago.
“Adding that kind of veteran presence is worth the first pick on the draft’s final day this year, and the Broncos already have a replacement waiting in the wings in second-year pro Quinn Meinerz.”
Cushenberry, a 2020 third-round selection, has been Denver’s full-time starter at the pivot for the past two seasons. As a sophomore, the LSU product was Pro Football Focus‘ 21st-ranked C among 39 qualifiers, drawing stronger marks for pass protection (71.3) than run-blocking (62.5). He allowed only one sack across 16 appearances.
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Cushenberry is scheduled to earn $1.033 million in base salary for the 2022 campaign. Trading him would save $796,728 in salary cap space while creating a $473,088 dead-money charge, per OverTheCap.com.
But unless the Broncos move Meinerz to center — he’s currently the lone backup on the offseason roster — it’s likelier the club retains Cushenberry, who could thrive under new offensive line coach Butch Barry’s West Coast blocking scheme.
And snapping to some guy named Russell Wilson can’t hurt, either.
“‘Cush’ is as smart as can be, I can tell on film by how he’s directing everybody,” Wilson remarked during his March 16 introductory press conference.
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