Ex-Packers OT Signs New Deal With Broncos: Report

Broncos Add Ryan Pope

Getty John Elway, General Manager and President of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos, watches his team warm up for their game against the Jacksonville jaguars at Empower Field at Mile High on September 29, 2019 in Denver.

A former Green Bay Packers reserve tackle is heading to the AFC for a shot at earning a roster spot with the Denver Broncos next season.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Broncos are signing offensive tackle Ryan Pope, pending his physical, for the 2021 season, adding depth to the position after losing right tackle Ju’Wuan James to a season-ending injury.

Pope spent almost exactly three months with the Packers during the 2020 season, joining their practice squad in the middle of September and remaining one of its mainstays until his release on Dec. 15. While numerous practice-squad players were called up during that time, the 24-year-old offensive tackle was never one of them and will now head into his third NFL season without a single snap played.

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Packers Stuffed With Young OL Talent

Pope seems to be walking into a good situation with the Broncos, but the Packers likely won’t be looking back and wondering what could have been given how much young offensive line talent they have managed to stuff into their roster from the past two NFL draft classes.

The Packers have spent six of their last 18 draft picks on offensive linemen, using three sixth-rounders on a crew of interior linemen in 2020 and spreading out in 2021 to get a potential starter in the second round (center Josh Myers) and guard-tackle hybrids in the fourth (Royce Newman) and sixth (Cole Van Lanen) rounds for depth. They also signed two undrafted rookies last year — one of which, tackle Zack Johnson, made it to the 2021 offseason roster — and another three this year.

Now, not everyone will make it out of training camp and onto either their active or practice-squad roster, but that’s quite a bit of raw materials for the Packers to mold over the next few months as they look to do patchwork on their offensive line. If you count their returning starters along with backups Ben Braden and Yosh Nijman, the Packers have 16 of their 90 offseason roster spots devoted to offensive linemen.

Which OL Battles Will Matter Most for Packers?

The Packers have to account for three veteran departures along their offensive line coming into the 2021 season, including All-Pro center Corey Linsley after he signed a big-money deal with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. They also released veteran tackle Rick Wagner and saw longtime guard Lane Taylor land with the Houston Texans, leaving several holes in the depth chart.

The good news is the Packers are set to return four of the linemen who made up one of the NFL’s best pass-blocking offensive lines last year, including third-year Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins and All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (once he fully recovers from his ACL tear). They also have back Billy Turner, who has started at both right guard and tackle in the past two seasons, and Lucas Patrick, retaining a wealth of experience.

Still, multiple starting spots could be up for grabs when the Packers arrive at training camp this summer. If Bakhtiari isn’t ready to start in Week 1, the Packers will need to find a short-term replacement. Jenkins could do it, but then someone will need to fill his spot at left guard. Myers also projects to be their new starting center, but competition could break out between him, 2020 draft pick Jake Hanson and, potentially, Patrick.

Patrick will also need to stay on his toes. He signed a contract extension with the Packers in the middle of the 2019 season and contributed valuable starting reps in 2020, but a heap of young (and cheap) talent could persuade the Packers to go a different direction if he isn’t showing the necessary improvement in camp.

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