With options limited in free agency, Broncos trade for OT Jared Veldheer

Jared Veldheer (68) was with Arizona the past four seasons after beginning his NFL career with four in Oakland. John G. Mabanglo/EPA

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos gleefully introduced Case Keenum as their new starting quarterback just over a week ago, president of football operations/general manager John Elway said he was still on the hunt for ways to improve the line that would protect the team's investment.

And as the ranks of the unsigned tackles, particularly, dwindled in the opening days of free agency, Elway took another direction Friday. The Broncos sent a sixth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for veteran tackle Jared Veldheer.

Veldheer has started the majority of games in his previous eight seasons in the league at left tackle -- 91 in all at left tackle, nine at right tackle and one at center -- but the Broncos see him as a potential solution at right tackle. At 6-foot-8 and 322 pounds, Veldheer is one of the biggest tackles in the league, and the Broncos know him well from his four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

Veldheer's addition means that, if he's the starter at right tackle as expected, Garett Bolles stays at left tackle and Menelik Watson, who has never played more than 12 games in any season because of injuries, could be the team's swing tackle.

At the moment, Denver's offensive line would project to be Bolles at left tackle, Ron Leary at left guard, Matt Paradis at center, Connor McGovern at right guard and Veldheer at right tackle. The Broncos could still use one or more of their nine draft picks on offensive linemen as well.

Veldheer, who will turn 31 in June, had played in 16 games in five of his first six seasons in the league but has had injuries end each of the past two. A triceps injury finished his 2016 season after eight games, and last season he went on injured reserve after 13 games because of a cracked bone in his ankle.

After signing Keenum in the opening hours of free agency (as well as cornerback Tramaine Brock), the Broncos saw the tackles available the open market snapped up quickly, with Nate Solder's $62 million deal and Chris Hubbard's $36.5 million contract leading the way. Players like former Broncos draft pick Michael Schofield, former Denver right tackle Donald Stephenson, Seantrel Henderson, Marshall Newhouse and Ben Ijalana all quickly signed one-year deals around the league as well.

And because this year's NFL draft class is considered decidedly thin at tackle, the Broncos were faced with making a trade to fill a need.

The Broncos do still have nine picks in the draft, all in the first five rounds; Denver has four selections among the first 99, including the No. 5 pick overall.