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Should Denver have kept Russell Okung?

As Denver struggles at the tackle position, Okung is playing good football for the Chargers.

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week is a great opportunity to take stock of where you are as a team. After four games, the team’s strengths and weaknesses have become apparent.

Sitting at the top ten in the league in total pressures allowed, and bottom 3rd in pass blocking efficiency (numbers by Pro Football Focus), it is clear that pass protection has been Denver’s Achilles heel. The offensive tackles have been particularly offensive.

Garrett Bolles, while showing flashes of potential as a rookie, has allowed 14 total pressures; he ranks #43 out of 57 eligible tackles in pressures allowed.

His teammate on the opposite side has fared even worse. Menelik Watson has allowed a league high 6 sacks, and is ranked 49th in total pressures allowed, with 17.

MHR’s Joe Mahoney aptly pointed out that not all the sacks ascribed to Watson are his fault, but even with that, the right tackle situation looks pretty bleak in Denver.

Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus put out a key stat for each team after the first quarter of the season, and one in particular caught my eye:

Left tackle Russell Okung as allowed one sack and five hurries so far this season. His 96.9 pass blocking efficiency is the best rate for a Chargers offensive tackle four weeks into the season in the last 12 years.

As it turns out, Russell Okung is having himself quite the season from a pass blocking stand point. Okung ranks 9th in the league with only 6 total pressures allowed, and is a top 15 in overall PFF grades as well.

This brings us to today’s topic. Should Denver have kept Russell Okung?

In February of this year, Denver decided not to pick up Okung’s contract option which would have locked him in for four years at roughly $12M per year, with only the ‘17 and ‘18 seasons guaranteed.

Instead, Denver opted to free up the cap space, drafted Garrett Bolles, and signed Menelik Watson for a $3.2M cap hit this year, with a potential out at the beginning of the 2018 season with $2.5M of dead money.

Two big questions come to mind when considering this possibility.

Could Denver afford Okung?

Denver currently sits at $11.4M in cap space after all their free agent moves and extending Brandon McManus. Additionally, they opted to reduce Stephenson’s salary instead of cutting him outright, and retained Jared Crick (pre-injury) which could have both been potential cap saving moves if they wanted to tighten the belt to afford Okung.

So the answer is, yes they could have afforded him.

Would he be an upgrade?

I think it’s clear from the numbers above that Okung would be an upgrade over any of our tackles currently on the roster.

Here’s my arm chair GM in hindsight opinion: Denver should have picked up Okung’s option, still drafted Garrett Bolles, and played Bolles at right tackle for at least this season, grooming him to be the left tackle of the future. This would have improved the Broncos current tackle situation on both fronts.

What are your thoughts, Broncos Country? If you could do it over again, would you keep Russell Okung?

P.S. If you want to see who really regrets not re-signing Okung, go check out all the Seahawk fans on Twitter.


Should the Broncos have kept Okung?

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