The Denver Broncos are in a precarious position, after choosing not to pick up left tackle Russell Okung's option. The option would have paid Okung almost $12 million in 2017 and would have guaranteed him $19.5 million over the next two years.
Okung may have been the least of Denver's problems along the offensive line last year, but his performance wasn't worth that kind of money moving forward. So, GM John Elway bit the bullet, but does that mean that the Broncos have moved on from Okung?
"I wouldn’t say we've 'moved on'," Elway said Wednesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. "We just didn’t exercise his option. That doesn’t mean that we’ve moved on. We’d still like to talk to Russell and I’m going to talk to Russell about possibly what he wants to do. But he’s looking at the market, and seeing what’s out there also. So we’re not counting Russell out. But he’s part of the process."
Okung remains a potential piece to the O-line puzzle the Broncos are trying to put together. There are multiple options on the free agent market, including Andrew Whitworth, Kelvin Beachum, Riley Reiff, and Ricky Wagner.
The biggest issue for the Broncos as it relates to Okung is value. Denver mined good value out of Okung in 2016, paying him about $8 million all-in, which, compared to the going rate for above average left tackles, is great value.
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"We’re always looking for value in free agency, which is sometimes hard to do."
Okung might find a team on the open market willing to pay him $10-plus million per year to sign. If he circles back to the Broncos, my guess would be that they'd like to keep his number closer to what they paid him last year — about $8 million.
But, it's not easy finding a starting-caliber left tackle. And Elway recognizes that.
"I think it’s very important," Elway said. "You’re protecting the back-side of the quarterback. But they’re not guys who grow on trees either. They’re difficult to find, so we’ll do everything we can to find the best fit. If that’s Russell, great. If not, we’ll see what else is out there."
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.