Denver Broncos lock up top guard

Most of the attention has been on the Denver Broncos’ pursuit of signing star defensive end Elvis Dumervil to a new contract.

While the Dumervil talks continue, Denver squeezed in a new deal for guard Chris Kuper. According to a league source, Kuper signed a six-year, $29 million deal. He will receive $26.5 million in new money with $13 million in guaranteed money.

Kuper is an important player on Denver’s young offensive line. He is a big, strong mauler. He is intense and always plays to the whistle. He should have no trouble adjusting to the smash-mouth scheme Denver is adopting as it moves away from the zone-blocking defense employed during the Mike Shanahan era.

Kuper was given a first-round tender as a restricted free agent this offseason.

Dumervil is now Denver’s top priority before free agency next winter. The linebacker is a restricted free agent, who has not signed his tender. He has worked some with the team during the offseason.

The Broncos believe they can sign Dumervil, but talks could be tricky. Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks last season and is looking for a huge contract. So while Denver chews on what to give Dumervil, it found a way to lock up Kuper and keep an important piece of the offense intact.

Kuper and Dumervil are the remaining pieces of a strong 2006 draft class in Denver. The team has traded Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler from the class for various reasons.