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What should Broncos do about the Russell Okung dilemma?

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The Afternoon Drive guys debate the not-so-good options for Broncos at left tackle.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The question of the day at The Afternoon Drive was to name three Broncos under contract who should be nervous about being cut, and the first two were easy pickings - offensive linemen Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson.

Stephenson should be a lock for getting cut, but Okung - who is set to make nearly $50 million over the next four years if he remains on the team - is a possible candidate for a renegotiated contract if he wants to stay for less money.

"The Russell Okung thing is a real dilemma," Les Shapiro noted. "Ask most coaches and they’ll tell you the two most important positions on offense are quarterback and left tackle. And the two positions hardest to find good players are quarterback and left tackle."

Okung’s play last season was mediocre at best - at best! - but the problem for the Broncos is that there aren’t many good left tackles available in free agency, and even if picking up a good left tackle in the draft is a possibility, the Broncos would be entrusting one of the most important positions to a rookie.

Additionally, Eric Goodman noted that several other teams desperately need a left tackle on their failing offensive lines - the Giants, Colts, Lions and Seahawks among them. This means the Broncos may have to overpay to get a good one or even keep a mediocre one.

"Teams reach for left tackles almost as much as they reach for quarterbacks," Shapiro added.

The Broncos may look to entice Bengals’ free agent Andrew Whitworth to come to Denver for the right price. The 35-year-old left tackle says he’d like to work something out with the Bengals but is also willing to listen - especially to "contenders."

Whitworth noted part of his decision is whether the Bengals will try to keep right guard Kevin Zeitler, another possible OL consideration for the Broncos.

MHR’s Joe Mahoney had a very pertinent comment in MHR’s post about Whitworth getting a look, noting that history is not kind to left tackles past age 31 or 32:

Jake Long (Vikings) started to decline at 29. He is currently 31 and has only started three games in the last two seasons.

Walter Jones (former Seahawks’ four-time 1st team All Pro LT) had his decline at 34 in 2008 - his final season in the NFL. His decline was rapid as he was an AllPro in 2007.

Matt Light’s decline with the Patriots started at 32 in 2010. He retired after in 2011.

Jonathan Ogden’s decline happened at 32 in 2006. The Ravens’ LT was still playing in 2007, but he was a shell of what he once was and retired after 2007. He made AllPro four times.

Hall-of-Famer Willie Roaf’s decline started in 2004 at 34. He still played in 2005, but injury cut his season short, and he retired after 2005. He made 1st team AllPro three times during his career.

Orlando Pace was a three-time 1st team All Pro LT. His decline really started in 2006 at 31. He played through the 2009 season, but he was never an elite LT after 2005.

Tra Thomas never made 1st team All Pro, but he did make the Pro Bowl three times. His decline started at 33 in 2007, and he retired after the 2009 season.

Chris Samuels made the Pro Bowl six times but was never 1st team All Pro. His decline started at 31 in 2008, he was done after the 2009 season.

Michael Roos made the Pro Bowl and 1st team All Pro only once (2008). His decline started in 2013 at 31. He was out of the league after 2014.

HOFer Anthony Munoz had his decline start at the age of 32 in 1991. He was retired after the 1992 season. There were only two years when he did NOT make the ProBowl – his rookie year and his final year in the league. He was a 9x 1st team AllPro LT.

As Mahoney noted, left tackles who can play beyond early 30s at an elite level are "exceedingly rare."

Shapiro joked that maybe the Broncos should look for a lefty QB and then they just need a good right tackle. Goodman’s solution is a clean medical report for Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk - who suffered a torn labrum in his hip - so Denver can get him at No. 20 in the draft.

Of course, that would mean a rookie at left tackle.

"If want to deal with the devil, deal with the devil you don’t know," Goodman said. "With Okung we know what we’re getting. Ramczyk appears to be a player."