Does it make sense for the Broncos to bring back Elijah Wilkinson? Does he want to stay in Denver?
Elijah Wilkinson started his NFL career as an undrafted free college free agent who made the Bronco’s practice squad first in 2017. Over the past three seasons he has played almost 1800 offensive snaps for the Broncos. He played 520, 835 and 420 offensive snaps respectively for the Broncos in the the last three seasons. He signed a restricted free agent tender to play for the Broncos in 2020 which earned him 3.3 million.
6-6, 329lb (198cm, 149kg)
Team: Denver Broncos
His play at guard has been better than his play at tackle so the current unrestricted free agent probably has a better shot of landing on another team as a starting guard than he does as a starting tackle. If he chooses to sign with the Broncos he will most likely be the swing tackle, if Ju’Wuan James is brought back for 2021. If James is released, Wilkinson could be brought back to compete with Calvin Anderson for the starting RT spot in 2020.
Overthecap.com predicts that Wilkinson will get a five million per year deal for 2021 given his G/T versatility and his ability to play both tackle spots. There is a dearth of competent offensive tackles in the NFL and some team might take a chance that Wilkinson can be an upgrade over one of the men who started at tackle for them in 2020.
If you trust PFF grades, Wilkinson has graded out this way in the past three seasons:
- 2020 – 52.4
- 2019 – 59.6
- 2018 – 65.5
If you are paying attention you will notice that his PFF rating has gone down each year. He mostly played guard for us in 2018 and tackle in 2019 and 2020. Remember that Jared Veldheer was our primary RT in 2018. That being said, Wilkinson is serviceable starting RT, but he will always be limited by slow feet.
Why the Broncos should sign him
Wilkinson knows the offense and has now had two years to work with Mike Munchak. In theory, more time with Munchak should make Wilkinson better as both a tackle and guard. His ability to play both spots is valuable and four to five million per year for a decent swing tackle and backup guard is not a terrible price to retain Wilkinson.
Why the Broncos should not sign him
Wilkinson is never going to develop and he will always be a liability if he is needed to start at tackle. If the Broncos needed him to play guard, he might be a better option to resign, but his lack of footspeed and quickness make him a liability in the pin-and-pull runs that Shurmur ran last year. Quick agile offensive lineman are needed for those plays. Wilkinson is neither of those two things.
As a backup tackle, Calvin Anderson is a much cheaper option who still could develop into a starting offensive tackle. Wilkinson most likely will never develop into an average starting RT in the NFL, but I will admit I was wrong about Billy Turner, who I also thought would never develop into an average starting RT in the NFL. Turner was quite good for the Packers this season. The Packers had the best offensive line in the NFL in 2020.
It should also be noted that, according to PFF, the Bronco offensive line has allowed 43.5 sacks over the past three seasons. According to PFF, Wilkinson was to blame for 14.5 of them. He allowed 9.0 sacks in 2019 in 844 snaps (not sure how many of those were pass block snaps – that number is behind the paywall at PFF). Nine sacks was the most allowed by any offensive lineman in 2019. The entire LA Rams team only allowed twenty-two sacks that season.