For Denver Broncos Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway, Thursday was just another day at the office, but one that will likely have significant impacts positively for the franchise not only now, but in the future as well.
In what seems to be an endless bag of tricks, Elway pulled out yet another free agency surprise when he was able to orchestrate the signing of free agent offensive tackle Russell Okung.
On the surface, the agreement is a one-year deal with a base salary of $5 million. That number can escalate to $8 million if Okung hits certain incentives regarding playing time and overall productivity — which the Broncos would have no problem paying if he returns to the Pro-Bowl caliber form he displayed early in his career.
The Russell Okung deal is actually structured as a one-year, $5m deal with a team option for the final four years at $12m per year.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 17, 2016
If Okung performs at a high level and the team likes what they see from the former Seahawk, they have the option of securing him for four more years at roughly $12 million per season with $20.5 million in guarantees. it is a low-risk, high reward option for the Broncos who were in desperate need of help in their offensive trenches.
With Okung and Donald Stephenson now in the fold, Elway has now alleviated what appeared to be the teams biggest need heading into the draft with two fiscally sound contracts which have the potential to pay big dividends for Denver.
As of now, the Broncos have their tandem of tackles set for 2016 and will likely move froward with second-year players Max Garcia and Ty Sambrailo at guard with Matthew Paradis slated at center.
A handful of players such as Michael Schofield, Dillon Day, James Ferentz and Sam Brenner will compete for back-up positions, but don’t be surprised to see the team draft one or two prospects to fortify their unit and provide them with options in the event a starter gets injured.
In the aura of the excitement surrounding the addition, there is also somberness. It also signifies the end of the road for the teams longest tenured player and only holdover from the Mike Shanahan era, Ryan Clady — which I wrote (and other news outlets picked up) would happen a year ago. As a fan, it is sad to see Clady's time in Denver end so abruptly, as I had been one of his long-time supporters and an advocate of the team selecting him all those years ago.
As reported, the team is attempting to trade Clady, but if no suitors are found, undoubtedly he will be cut and the team will save $9.5 million in cap space this coming year. Those savings could be helpful if the team continues their pursuit of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Source "firmly believes" Kaepernick to #Broncos "will happen, given time."— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) March 18, 2016
Perhaps the most significant impact the Okung and Stephenson acquisitions is the flexibility it gives the Broncos in the draft. Without their additions to the roster, it was almost a certainty the team would attempt to find a top-tier tackle in this years' class with one of their first two selections.
That has all changed and now the team will have the liberty of pursuing their best prospect available philosophy, and won't be forced into drafting someone out of necessity and need. We don't know what is in store for the Broncos once the NFL Draft starts, but I can imagine something special, perhaps out of this world, is in the works to solidify their ability to repeat as Super Bowl Champions.
Once again, today's events are just one of many instances that demonstrate why Elway has cemented himself as one of the league's premier front office guru's and is a testament to his football savvy, leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
Another day, another victory for the greatest Bronco to ever bless the gridiron.
In Elway we trust!