2017 Broncos roster: Guard Ronald Leary

We continue with our daily series of breaking down the Denver Broncos 2017 90-man roster. Today we keep the football rolling looking at guard, Ronald Leary

The Broncos entered free agency with one thing in mind and that was improving their offensive line. There were many players available on the market who could help the Broncos instantly, but they set their sights on one specific player, and that player ended up being former Dallas Cowboys guard, Ronald Leary.

The Broncos signed Leary to a four-year, $35 million dollar deal in the opening hours of free agency. Here’s how the four-year deal breaks down for Leary and the Broncos

Leary’s contract looks pretty fair compared to other deals that other interior offensive lineman have received recently. Also, like many of the other deals that General Manager John Elway and his staff do, the Broncos can cut ties with Leary after a few years with a minimal dead money hit. So overall it’s a good deal for both sides.

Ronald Leary is coming off an excellent 2016 season that helped him get that big money contract he signed this offseason. Pro Football Focus even ranked Leary as their 16th best free agent this past winter.

Leary was a player that had a starting spot at guard until the Cowboys found La’el Collins falling into their laps given his controversial draft day. Collins was a player seen as having first-round talent, but slipped out of the draft entirely after legal issues began to swirl around the draft. Dallas decided to sit Leary down to make way for Collins at left guard, but an injury to Collins early in 2016 opened the door back up for Leary to resume his starting spot and put together a fine season. This is an excellent offseason to want help at guard, with several quality ones available, and as such Leary could prove to be an under-the-radar option at the position. He didn’t allow a single sack last season and had the 14th-best PFF run-blocking grade (82.5) at the position.

So the Broncos signed a good one, and someone who can instantly improve their running game that was not good at all in 2016.

Leary was asked during his introductory press conference if he preferred run blocking or pass blocking and he replied back that he “takes more enjoyment blocking for the run”.

“I definitely take more enjoyment blocking for the run. I feel like run blocking is all about attitude. It’s big guy on big guy. Who is going to come out hard and who is going to hit him first in the mouth? I’m moving forward and he’s moving forward. I love that part of the game, but I also love pass blocking. I love the game of football. I’ve been blessed to be in a great system and now I’m blessed to be in another great system. There is going to be a bunch of great players and it’s a great, young offensive line. I’m just hoping I can come in and fit in with them and make sure I add to it.”

This is exactly the type of player the Broncos need and the exact mentality that they were searching for all offseason. Bigger and stronger guys with a mean streak who can help out in the run game. That’s what right tackle Menelik Watson can do and that’s also exactly what the first-round pick Garett Bolles can do as well.

Now the Broncos are hoping that Leary can open up running lanes for the Broncos back like he did for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The good:

Ronald Leary is one of the better run blocking guard in the entire NFL and now he is a member of the Denver Broncos. The video below shows how dominant Leary is in the run game and the type of player the Broncos are getting.

Leary earned an 80.4 overall grade from Pro Football Focus which is a bit better than the Broncos two starting guards in 2016. He also earned a very good 82.5 run blocking grade last season which puts him among some of the more elite run blockers in the league.

Run blocking isn’t the only thing that Leary does well. He’s also pretty decent at pass blocking. He earned a 78.7 pass blocking grade last season which is pretty respectable, but clearly, his game is run blocking.

To see an in-depth film breakdown on Ronald Leary, check out this piece written up by MHR’s Jeff Essary here.

The bad:

Injuries have always been a concern for Leary and those concerns really hurt his draft stock. He was diagnosed with a degenerative knee condition, but that has yet to hold him back during his career.

“They said that about me, but I’m a real God-fearing man. He kind of has the last say on all of those things. I knew they said I had issues. I just took it on head first. Whether it was more maintenance or just making sure I was staying in the best shape and keeping everything intact, it’s been working out for me and I’m going to keep it going.”

Let’s hope that Leary can keep his knee going during his time with the Broncos.

One concern I have is the Broncos moving Leary from left guard to right guard earlier this spring.

Leary told the media back in May that he’s more comfortable on the left side but has been moved to the right side to help fellow starting guard Max Garcia feel more comfortable.

“I’ve been more comfortable on the left side because that’s where I’ve been pretty much my entire career in Dallas. We talked about it. We talked to [Offensive Line] Coach [Jeff] Davidson and that’s just the reps we’re going with right now.”

I feel like if you’re going to sign Leary to a big money deal you should keep him at the position he has played his entire NFL career. That position is left guard, not right guard. I am not doubting that he can do it, but it’s a slight concern for me if they continue this going forward.

Finally, there’s the concern that Leary was a product of the Dallas O-line and that he benefited from playing next to probably the best-left tackle in the game(Tyron Smith) and the best center in the game(Travis Frederick). I am sure playing next to both benefitted Leary, but he has proven that he himself is also a damn good player.

Quotable:

Leary on creating a tougher mentality on the offense this offseason.

“I just try to lead by example. I talk a little bit, but I just like to work hard and try to do everything to the best of my ability. I think they see that—they already had it. It’s not like that this o-line was just missing. Everybody just needs to be pushed more and just work harder and that’s what we’re trying to do as a group. It’s not an individual thing, it’s always as a group on everything with the o-line. We’re just going to try to get that mentality that we’re physical, that we don’t take anything from anybody. I think once we develop that in the offseason, it will carry over to the season.”

Roster status:

Leary is locked in as a starter in this offense, the big question is if he’s a left guard or right guard. He played left guard his entire career, but Max Garcia is more comfortable at left guard. So that will be something to watch during Training Camp.