ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have taken a number of approaches to deal with offensive line problems dating back to last season, culminating with a drastic reorganization of their starting unit in last week’s win over the Oakland Raiders.
Their approach to the issues could be getting even more drastic, according to several reporters, who claim the team brought in free agent Richie Incognito, a former Pro Bowl lineman whose own issues have been well-publicized, for a visit this week.
As of Tuesday morning, there was no confirmation about whether the team was interested in signing Incognito, but NFL Network reporter Jeff Darlington reported the meetings between the Broncos and the free agent interior offensive lineman were “going great so far.”
Despite having missed just over a full season’s worth of games in the wake of a harassment scandal, Darlington also reported that the 31-year-old Incognito is in great shape having kept to “a strict workout regiment,” and that he is also taking “a deliberately silent approach” to his NFL future.
Incognito has been ostracized by the NFL since he was cut from the Miami Dolphins last season after reports that he harassed teammate Jonathan Martin. Martin ultimately left the team voluntarily to seek help for mental health issues that he said were caused by Incognito, among others.
Former Denver Post reporter Adam Schefter, now with ESPN, was the first to report Martin’s allegations, along with a Dolphins investigation that identified Incognito as “an alleged offender in multiple incidents of possible harassment and bullying over the past two seasons, with Martin not the only victim.”
Eventually, disturbing texts and voice messages in which Incognito used a racial slurs against Martin emerged, including threats to track down members of Martin’s family and harming them as well as threats to kill Martin.
Though the Dolphins indefinitely suspended Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team before cutting ties with him altogether, later reports surfaced suggesting Incognito, the unquestioned leader of the team’s offensive line, was just following orders from the Dolphins organization to “toughen up” Martin, and that he had simply been too diligent in tending to the charge.
Incognito field a grievance with the NFL, requesting that he be reinstated. But both the league and Dolphins announced that Incognito would remain suspended for the remainder of the season. During the offseason, the Dolphins cut Incognito after a new report surfaced from an NFL investigator, which claimed Incognito not only bullied teammates but staff members within the organization.
Incognito was eventually cleared by the NFL to return to the field in 2014 after a psychological evaluation. But despite reported meetings with several teams, he remained unsigned as of early November.
Incognito’s anger issues have been almost as well documented as his harassment case with the Dolphins. But when he has been on the field, he has been productive. He has started all 102 of the games he has played in nine NFL seasons, making the Pro Bowl in 2012, his last full season in the league.
The Broncos made three changes to their starting offensive line before last week’s game with the Raiders, moving All-Pro guard Louis Vasquez from right guard to right tackle, Manny Ramirez from center to right guard and Will Montgomery, a mid-season free agent acquisition, to center.
Paul Cornick, who had started the previous three games at right tackle, was held out of the Raiders game with a shoulder injury, though he was slated to be replaced in the new alignment before the injury.
Cornick replaced Chris Clark, who began the year as the starter at right tackle. Clark had replaced Orlando Franklin to begin the 2014 season after Franklin struggled mightily during the team’s lopsided Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks last season.
Franklin was shifted to left guard to begin this season, and remains part of the Broncos uninspiring starting offensive line.
Denver ranks 26th out of 32 NFL teams in rushing, and though the unit has only allowed just nine sacks this season — the best mark in the NFL — Raiders defenders were able to get close enough to Peyton Manning last week to knock down five of his passes in the first half.