17-Game Starter Bolts Broncos for Record-Setting Contract: Report

Sean Payton, Denver Broncos

Getty Head coach Sean Payton of the Denver Broncos.

The Denver Broncos had seven players start all 17 games last season.

Four players in that group were on the offensive line with the fifth starter, right tackle Mike McGlinchey, starting 16 games. But the group just suffered a significant blow in free agency.

“The Tennessee Titans signed the top center available in free agency Monday, inking former Denver Bronco Lloyd Cushenberry to a four-year, $50 million contract with some very strong underlying figures,” Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger wrote on March 11.

“The $21 million in first-year cash is the most ever for a center, and the $30 million in cash flow through year two is tied with Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly for the most ever. The $15 million average over the first two years significantly outpaces the overall average annual value of the deal.”

Cushenberry, 26, logged 100% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps in three of his four seasons, per Pro Football Reference.

The Broncos originally selected him in the third round (No. 83 overall) of the 2020 draft. He now jumps to the AFC South with the Titans who went 6-11 last season.

Cushenberry earned the second-highest pass-blocking grade and the third-highest run-blocking grade among the Broncos’ starting linemen in 2023, per Pro Football Focus. He joins a Titans team that ranked 24th and 18th, respectively, in those areas last season.

The contract’s $12.5 million average annual value is the third-highest for a center.

Cushenberry will bank $26 million in guaranteed money at signing, and $30 million in total guarantees with his new contract.

Pro Football Focus graded Cushenberry as the 13th-best center last season.

Broncos Like Alex Forsyth as Starting C

Alex Forsyth, Denver Broncos

GettyOffensive lineman Alex Forsyth #78 of the Oregon Ducks.

The Broncos might have been more inclined to bring Cushenberry back in free agency if they hadn’t landed his replacement in last year’s draft. Selected in the seventh round with the No. 257 overall pick, Alex Forsyth has a fan in Head Coach Sean Payton.

“We felt really fortunate to have a chance at that center that late in the draft, considering that was a pick that we had swapped for the tight end,” Payton told media members following the draft in May 2023. “In some of our mocks, we had actually seen that center possibly as a sixth-round player.”

General Manager George Paton likes Forsyth’s ceiling as well.

“Alex Forsyth, we feel he’s a starter in this league,” Paton told reporters during his season-ending press conference on January 9.

Broncos’ Hold Onto K Wil Lutz in Free Agency

Wil Lutz, Denver Broncos

GettyWil Lutz #16 of the Denver Broncos.

While the Broncos lost Cushenberry, they did add safety Brandon Jones from the Miami Dolphins in free agency.

They also narrowly avoided losing kicker Wil Lutz to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“First free-agent change: Kicker Will Lutz, who agreed to terms earlier in the day with Jacksonville, changed his mind and is remaining in Denver,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on March 11. “Broncos get back their kicker, Jaguars now need one.”

Lutz, 29, followed Payton over from the New Orleans Saints, connecting on 88.5% of his field goals this past season. He also missed just two extra point attempts on the year.

Additional terms of Lutz’s new two-year deal were not readily available.