In the NFL, the number one priority always has been (and always will be) protecting the quarterback. After all, the quarterback position is the “moneymaker” in the league, and the Denver Broncos are fortunate enough to have one of the elite players at the position in veteran Peyton Manning. Smartly, they are searching far and wide for ways to protect him, and apparently, they’ve come across one of his old friends in the process.
Fox Sports reported on Tuesday that the Broncos “hope to sign” former Indianapolis and Kansas City offensive lineman Ryan Lilja to a contract to help protect Manning. Lilja retired from the league after last season in Kansas City, but at just 31 years old, there is a real possibility that he could still play at a high level.
The impetus for the courting process seems to be the loss of center Dan Koppen for the season earlier in the week, and Lilja does have experience at the center spot from 2012 with the Chiefs. He started nearly 60 games for the Colts while Manning was under center, and while it was purely at the guard spot, they would certainly have a relationship dating back to those days in the 2000′s.
While it isn’t a done deal at this point, it almost makes too much sense for Lilja to be in Denver. Besides the past relationship with Manning, there is a clear, defined need on the interior line, and Lilja’s retirement at 31 years old seemed premature to most NFL insiders. Stay tuned for any “formal” announcement as it comes down.