Sports reporters and arm-chair quarterbacks have been voicing their desire to move Orlando Franklin to left guard. The move makes sense as Zane Beadles is the weakest link on a good offensive line. Franklin is a massive man who has played both guard and tackle at the University of Miami. Even the Denver Broncos coaches have dabbled with the notion by giving him reps in that spot during training camp. Don’t do it Broncos!
Why move a top five right tackle out of his position? Several ranking outlets place him in the top five of entire the National Football League and in the top two in pass protection. He has the height, weight, arm span and nimble feet that enable him to pass block well for a right tackle and he improves each year.
He is a great drive blocker, but needs to improve in the run game particularly when he has to reach the second level or cover space before locking onto an opponent. He tends to lunge in those situations, but he is improving that area of his game. Being a better pass blocker than run blocker would not make him a better fit a guard. Switching positions would require pulling and more frequent movement to reach the second level, neither being his strongest skills.
Protecting Peyton Manning is priority #1. Moving Franklin from the tackle position doesn’t help succeed in that goal because pressure is typically applied from the outside. He has not allowed many sacks over his first three years and he allows less each year. He does give up some pressure, but that is why he plays on the right side instead of the left.
Who would replace him? Will the Broncos spend big in free agency or make a blockbuster trade to land a right tackle better than Franklin? No they won’t. That leaves a player currently on the roster or a draft pick to do it. Chris Clark filled in admirably for Ryan Clady, but he is not better than Franklin. He is good depth and can be relied on when his name is called, but he was abused by good pass rushers like Robert Mathis. Vinston Painter is a decent developmental player, but there is no way he performs at Franklin’s level right now. The Broncos would need to trade up in the first round of the draft to find a sure-fire, day one starter. I don’t see them doing that when their needs on defense are so much greater.
Frankly, it is easier to replace Beadles at the guard position. His services may be retained at a reasonable price, but if he leaves via free agency there are a few options out there that would at least continue the same level of play. Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz are options right in the division. Plus, a guard is typically cheaper than a tackle in free agency, saving room in the salary cap to resign Franklin in the near future. There are options in the draft as well. Gabe Jackson and David Yankey have second round grades. Either would be an upgrade to Beadles and the Broncos wouldn’t have to mortgage future drafts to land them.
Moving Franklin sounds good in an attempt fix the left guard position, but it leaves a gaping hole at right tackle. It isn’t the right move. Fixing the guard spot is easier and cheaper than trying to fill Franklin’s massive shoes. If he continues to improve the way he has in his first three years, he will soon be the best right tackle in the game.