Broncos Seen as ‘Potentially Strong Fit’ for 73-Game Starter to Protect Bo Nix

Bo Nix

Getty Broncos rookie quarterback Bo Nix.

Despite taking Bo Nix in the 2024 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos quarterback situation remains in the air.

The first-rounder from Oregon is likely a strong favorite to start under center this upcoming season. Head coach Sean Payton has all summer to decide his starting QB before the regular season begins.

Until then, the Broncos must continue building around Nix to make his rookie campaign successful. Randy Mueller from The Athletic named former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mason Cole as a “potentially strong fit” for Denver to keep Nix upright.

“The Broncos, who might start a rookie quarterback, have Luke Wattenberg (a 2022 fifth-round pick with 126 career offensive snaps, only 27 at center) and Alex Forsyth (a 2023 seventh-round pick with zero career offensive snaps) projected to battle for the starting center job,” Mueller wrote in his May 15 article before adding:

“Bo Nix could use some help making protection calls and slowing the game down for him if the Broncos give him the keys to the car early.”

The Broncos have notable inexperience at center while Cole has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Cole has 73 career starts and started every game for Pittsburgh in the last two seasons.

Steelers Had a Valid Reason for Cutting Cole

Pittsburgh rewarded Cole with a three-year $15.7 million deal in March 2022. Despite remarkable availability with the Steelers, there was a reason the team moved on this offseason.

In 2023, Cole struggled mightily as he led all centers with 37 pressures allowed over 18 games. That yielded a 32.4 PFF pass-blocking grade that ranked second-lowest among centers with at least 500 blocking snaps on the season.

Kate Magdziuk from SB Nation’s Behind the Steel Curtain provided further context behind the veteran’s struggles:

“Cole finds himself as one of just three centers to post a 32.4 or lower PFF pass-blocking grade (min. 500 blocking snaps) dating back to 2010,” Magdziuk wrote on April 2. “The others included Giants center John Michael Schmitz Jr. (26.9 in 2023) and Texans center Scott Quessenberry (25.8 in 2022).”

Pittsburgh moved quickly to find Cole’s replacement, selecting West Virginia center Zach Frazier with the No. 51 overall pick in this year’s draft. If Payton believes in second chances, the Broncos might be wise in giving Cole another opportunity.

How Will the Broncos Replace Lloyd Cushenberry in 2024?

Cushenberry was among the most notable names to leave the Mile High City this offseason. The LSU product was a steady presence along the Broncos’ offensive line, starting all 57 games in Denver since 2020.

Regarded as one of the best players at his position in free agency, the Broncos made zero effort to re-sign him. Cushenberry signed a four-year contract with the Tennessee Titans on March 14. Whoever starts at center in 2024 will have big cleats to fill.

According to PFF, Cushenberry had a career season in 2023, finishing with a 76.4 pass-blocking grade. Cushenberry allowed only one sack and 14 pressures in 17 games and 647 pass-blocking snaps.

The Broncos took a risk by letting the veteran walk while seemingly handing the reins to Wattenberg or Forsyth without outside competition.

Signing Cole would provide the Broncos with an experienced option as the team pivots into Payton’s second season.

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