Free agency opened its two-day tampering period Tuesday before the chess game begins in earnest on Thursday - and the rumblings around Dove Valley have begun as well.
Although the Tony Romo rumors are the sexiest, it’s no secret the Broncos mainly want to target their offensive and defensive lines for bolstering. But how they do that is very much a mystery.
News came out Tuesday that although the Broncos do not plan to pick up Russell Okung’s option, they are interested in renegotiating the terms to keep the left tackle.
Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro debated on the Afternoon Drive the Broncos deciding between Russell Okung and Andrew Whitworth.
For Shapiro, it’s definitely Okung.
Instead of going after the Bengals’ three-time Pro Bowl left tackle that earned Pro Football Focus’ highest pass-blocking efficiency score of 98.0 - and the same tackle who allowed just 14 total QB pressures on 561 pass-blocking snaps, recording six games with a perfect pass-pro score and getting beaten for only one sack after Week 6 - Shapiro prefers the Broncos’ left tackle. A left tackle who was previously touted as a top 10 offensive lineman but who was known more for increasing fans’ blood pressure with his penalties last season than beating back any QB pressures.
But in a bad market, mediocre talent at a tolerable price where there is a lot of demand will rival great talent at a hefty price - and that’s the spot the 29-year-old Okung is finding himself as many teams need tackles but not enough Whitworths exist - or not affordable ones. And at 35, the Bengal tackle is not a sure thing.
So Shapiro says "go with the devil you know rather than the one you don’t."
Andrew Mason of denverbroncos.com seems to also favor this move.
As I've said before, played better down the stretch than early. Scarcity of viable free-agent OTs means he'll have market value. https://t.co/cVGaPnG5YI— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) March 7, 2017
And, of course, it mostly boils down to money.
With his $3 million in incentives, Okung made $8 million from the Broncos last season. He’s likely to command $8-$10 million in this market. But Whitworth is going to cost closer to $12 million. When you have other needs, the $4 million savings can be crucial.
Okung could be the safer and more reliable option - unless he can find a team who needs him more and wants to pay.
"The more I think about it, bring back Okung. Bring him back at a good price. The market is barren," Shapiro noted. "Okung you know. You know what he is. You know what you need to do to light a fire under him to make him better. ...If you get him at the right price, you’ve got your left tackle, move on and fill some other needs."
Goodman’s concern is if the Broncos are serious about Romo, a much better offensive line is an absolute must.
"This is why you need Whitworth," Goodman said. "This is why you need five Whitworths."
So what do you think, Broncos Country - is Okung the safer bet? Is he good enough at left tackle to get some improvement overall with other moves on the O-line?