ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The signing of two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis turns Denver's most glaring question mark into one of its strengths.
Mathis passed his physical, signed his contract, donned his familiar No. 69 jersey and a black baseball cap and watched Wednesday's joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers from the sideline.
''We're not just going to throw him out here right now,'' coach Gary Kubiak said, detailing a plan to bring him up to speed slowly.
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No matter, the arrival of Mathis immediately bolsters an O-line that featured three NFL novices alongside anchor Louis Vasquez and journeyman Ryan Harris.
''Speed, experience, you want all of those things on your football team,'' said Peyton Manning, who now has a pair of All-Pro guards anchoring the line as he tries to become the first 39-year-old QB to win a Super Bowl. ''But it's always good to have a little mix. I think he'll be a really good addition.
''I'm looking forward to working with him.''
So is coach Gary Kubiak.
''He brings a lot of experience to a group that doesn't have a lot of experience,'' Kubiak said. ''When an 11-year player walks into the room, obviously all the young guys know him. So, it's a great addition. A lot of teams were chasing him. We're just very fortunate that he chose us.''
A two-time Pro Bowler in Philadelphia, Mathis is well-versed in the zone blocking system that the new coaching staff is reinstalling in Denver. But he insisted it ''wasn't that high on the list.''
Way ahead of scheme, he said, was ''the opportunity to play for a contender of an organization (and) block for a guy like Peyton Manning.''
After signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract that could be worth up to $4 million, Mathis worked with strength coach Rich Tuten before watching the workout while standing next to the old No. 69, Mark Schlereth.
Mathis originally was seeking $5.5 million, the same salary he was set to make with the Eagles before he was swept up in Chip Kelly's offseason purge. He drew interest from several teams and even visited the Seahawks before jumping at the Broncos' offer.
''Very enticing opportunity,'' Mathis said. ''There were just so many things about this team, the organization, the coaching staff that I just couldn't turn it down. I had to be here.''
He said the Broncos ''explained the situation: a young offensive line that could do well with some more veteran leadership and experience. And I feel like I'll be able to bring that.''
He'll bring that savvy sooner than he'll replace rookie guard Max Garcia.
Kubiak said Mathis, who's been working out at his own gym in Arizona, will do individual work Thursday and won't play this weekend. The goal, he said, is to have him ready to go by the season opener Sept. 13.
So, Garcia will continue to play left guard for the time being, working in between fellow rookie Ty Sambrailo and second-year center Matt Paradis, who spent all of his first season on the practice squad.
Once Mathis supplants him, Garcia will swing between guard and tackle.
''We have a lot of confidence in Max,'' Kubiak said. ''Max has done a great job. I talked to Max first thing yesterday and explained to him that it wasn't about anything he's done. It's about us having a chance to get a great player and improve our football team. ... We just got stronger on the front.''
At 33, Mathis is the oldest O-lineman in Denver, but he figures after missing training camp, he'll bring fresh legs to the mix.
''Training camp, a lot of guys fight to maintain strength. Your body might take a few steps back banging on each other,'' he said. ''For me, I've just been working really hard, haven't been running into walls or anything in my free time.''
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