Anyone who has a little bit of football knowledge and is a fan of the Denver Broncos knows that their offensive line has been "less than stellar" for the last few years. In 2016 the Broncos started free agency squeezed up against the cap, but in an attempt to bolster the offensive line on a tight budget, they signed Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung early in free agency. Stephenson looked promising for a week or two, but since then has been one of the lowest graded offensive tackles in the League, and has absolutely justified the derisive laughter we heard from Chiefs fans when he was signed. The only worse performances at RT I've seen this season have been from Ty Sambrailo. Between the two of them, I'm beginning to think that maybe Schofield wasn't all that bad at RT other than the 5 sacks he gave up against Khalil Mack. Anyway, does anyone think Stephenson has any redeeming qualities as an offensive lineman that would make it worthwhile to keep him on the Broncos' roster for 2017 for a $5M cap hit of $5M, or should the Broncos just cut him for $3M in 2017 cap space saved after dead money that they could use elsewhere. We don't HAVE to make this decision right this instant, but we DO have to make it before 3/13/2017 when Stephenson's $4M 2017 salary becomes fully guaranteed.
On to the Okung option:
In March of 2016 the Broncos signed Russell Okung to a 5 year, $53M contract which Okung negotiated for himself without a professional agent. Mediots, professional agents, and some NFL players criticized him AND the Broncos for that, and proclaimed that the Broncos had taken advantage of him, but a deal was struck. In the first year of that deal, if the Spotrac numbers I'm looking at and my interpretation of those numbers are correct, Okung will end up being paid $5M by the Broncos for the 2016 season at the cost of a $5.2M 2016 cap hit. 2017 is an option year that activates the remaining 4 years of the contract IF the Broncos choose to exercise it before free agency begins on or about 3/9/2017. If they don't, Okung will walk away in free agency, and the Broncos could potentially end up with a 2018 compensatory pick for him. They would also likely get a $200K adjustment added to their 2017 cap since $200K out of a potential $1M option bonus was already prorated and counted against their 2016 cap.
So much for the past. On to the future ramifications of the Okung option:
If the Broncos exercise Okung's option, they will essentially be committed to him financially for both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Okung will get $20.5M in fully guaranteed money consisting of the $1M option bonus, an $8M 2017 roster bonus, $2M in 2017 salary, and $9.5M in 2018 salary. Okung's contract also includes a $93,750K per game bonus for 2017 and 2018 which comes to an additional $1.5M per year if he is active for all 16 regular season game. That would result in an $11.7M total cap hit for 2017, and an $11.2M cap hit for 2018. After the 2018 season, Okung could be released at the cost of a $400K 2019 dead cap hit.
Almost discussion time:
As things stand now, Okung, Stephenson, Schofield (is he a tackle or a guard), and Sambrailo (is he a tackle or a guard or just a waste of a roster slot) are the only 'tackles" on the Broncos' roster unless you want to count Justin Murray on practice squad. NOT exercising Okung's option would add $11.9M to the Broncos' 2017 cap space, but is it likely that they can do better for the money in the 2017 draft and free agency? Okung hasn't been particularly impressive this year, but it's certainly possible that coaching issues and the overall craptastic performance of the offensive line as a whole has a lot to do with that. So, what do think, Broncos fans? Should the Broncos exercise Okung's option?
Time for the poll and hopefully some good discussion in the comments: