The Denver Broncos have increased competition for places with the additions of offensive lineman Allen Barbre and running back Stevan Ridley.
Soon after the Broncos confirmed second-year running back Devontae Booker is set to miss six weeks due to a wrist injury, the pickup of free agent Stevan Ridley is an insurance move to protect starter CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles, who joined the Broncos this season despite playing just eight games in the last two seasons, as training camp and preseason ramp up.
With Charles expected to be eased into the 2017 season, the Broncos need another body to take the reps that Booker would have taken with the first and second teams.
Bernard Pierce, Juwan Thompson, and rookie De’Angelo Henderson, are all expected to see increased reps, along with Ridley, who should also see action in next month’s preseason games.
The 28-year-old’s best years may be behind him. A third-round pick out of LSU by the New England Patriots in 2011, Ridley failed to live up to the highs of 2012 when he ran for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He spent 2015 with the New York Jets, playing eight games in the second half of the season after recovering from a torn ACL suffered while playing for the Patriots in 2014.
Last season, Ridley had spells with the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts before landing with the Atlanta Falcons in October, where he ran the ball three times for seven yards before being released in November.
In a surprise move, general manager John Elway also picked up veteran guard Allen Barbre in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, reportedly for a 2019 conditional seventh-round pick.
The Eagles had told Barbre he was being released, before the Broncos jumped at the chance of picking up an experienced lineman on a favourable deal.
“I was really shocked,” Barbre told 104.3. “I thought I was just cut from the Eagles and was just kind of hanging out waiting to find something out and then I get a phone call from Howie at the Eagles and he told me I was traded.
“It’s kind of a whirlwind. Just trying to take it all in really.”
While Barbre arrived in Denver for training camp aiming to compete for a job at left guard, some analysts think he could become the fourth new starter on the Broncos’ offensive line in 2017, with centre Matt Paradis the only carry over from 2016 if he recovers from double hip surgery.
At the start of free agency, Elway made a big splash to bring in former Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary and Manchester-born tackle Menelik Watson, who spent last season with the Oakland Raiders, before drafting Utah tackle Garret Bolles in the first round in the hope the 25-year-old can become a long-term solution at the troublesome left-tackle position.
With Max Garcia struggling at right guard, the Broncos coaches switched him back to left guard during OTAs, with Leary—a career left guard—projected to start at right guard alongside Watson.
Going into his third season since being drafted in the fourth round by the Broncos in 2015, Garcia can consider himself on-notice to deliver in training camp or lose his place as a starter, and the 33-year-old Barbre is looking forward to the opportunity in Broncos Country.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride; a whirlwind,” he told Denver7. “I am excited. I know the Broncos are a winning organisation. I can’t wait to get there and meet the guys.
“I know what they are trying to do there. It’s up to me to pick up the terminology quickly.
“But I am excited to get there. This is a great opportunity.”
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