According to Foxsport's Jay Glazer, the Denver Broncos have informed left tackle Russell Okung that they will not be picking up his option. This means the Broncos 2016 starting left tackle will be hitting the free agent market.
Another strong tackle option appears headed to free agency as the broncos have informed Russell Okung they will not be picking up his option— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) February 23, 2017
The Broncos had until the start of the new league year to decide what to do with left tackle Russell Okung who had a one million dollar option due. If the Broncos picked up that option it would have activated a four-year, $48 million dollar deal. However, they decided to part ways with the veteran left tackle after one season.
Now the Broncos will start looking for Okung's replacement either through free agency, a trade or during the 2017 NFL Draft.
One name already connected to the Broncos is longtime Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth. He has expressed that he would like to return to the Bengals, but would listen to offers from contenders before resigning with the Bengals. Whitworth told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he wants to take advantage of the opportunity and try to win himself a Super Bowl before his career is up.
"I want to take advantage of the opportunity of being free and listen to what other people have to say," Whitworth said. "I think that's the right way to do it. I'm talking to the (Bengals). Hopefully we're going to work something out and for sure be back as a Bengal. That's where I'd love to end my career and love that opportunity to do that. But I also think it's smart to at least listen to other opportunities and make sure that you have your heart in the right place."
Another name that could pop up is longtime Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. The Broncos and Browns nearly struck a deal two seasons ago for the All-Pro left tackle, but nothing has happened since. While nothing has been reported, I could see the two sides talking about a potential deal once again this offseason.
Outside of Whitworth and Thomas, the Broncos options look pretty limited. The free agent left tackles include former Denver Bronco Ryan Clady, Kelvin Beachum, Matt Kalil, Jake Long, and William Beatty. Not a great overall group and all of which would be a downgrade from Okung.
Now the draft does have a few potential targets. Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk and Alabama's Cam Robinson. Ramczyk is coming off surgery and his medicals will be something to watch during the Combine here in under two weeks. Robinson's evaluation is all over the place. Some believe he can be a starting left tackle, others believe he's a better right tackle, and Mike Mayock has him listed as a guard, so that will be something to watch going forward as well.
Utah's Garrett Bolles is another name to watch. Probably the most athletically gifted tackle in this class, but will be 25 years old during his rookie year. He is also a better fit in a zone-scheme and it seems like the Broncos will be moving towards more of a power scheme, so that's another issue.
Outside of that, you have some projects like Troy's Antonio Garcia and Bucknell's Julien Davenport who could one day become starters, but need to work on their game before getting there.
So Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway has some work to do. I believe if they made this move on Okung this early, they already have a plan in place and feel confident about achieving that plan. The big question is, how will the Broncos go about finding that left tackle, and who will that player be?
Stay tuned to Mile High Report Broncos fans, free agency is about to get started and the Broncos will be major players once again it seems.