Russell Okung's Broncos Contract Option Won't Be Picked Up, Will Be Free Agent

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2017

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 13: Russell Okung #73 of the Denver Broncos blocks during a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 13, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Offensive tackle Russell Okung's tenure with the Denver Broncos was short-lived, as the seven-year veteran will not have his contract option for 2017 picked up.

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post reported the Broncos were not exercising Okung's option.

The move wasn't surprising due to the financials involved with Okung's contract. He signed a one-year deal with the Broncos last March with an option that would pay him $48 million over the next four years.

Wolfe reported in February that the Broncos were looking to find ways to upgrade their offensive line, but Okung was unlikely to accept a restructuring or pay cut:

After proving he could stay healthy for 16 games with the Broncos, Okung, who negotiated his deal without an agent, would have little incentive to drastically decrease his pay. Kansas City's Eric Fisher set the market for average-to-solid left tackles when he signed a four-year, $48 million extension with $22 million guaranteed in July.

The Broncos offensive line was a weak spot in 2016. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus ranked that unit as the NFL's 24th-best last season. Okung's performance was lacking relative to the money he was due to make if his option had been picked up, as Pro Football Focus ranked Okung as the No. 37 tackle overall last season (h/t Jon Heath of Broncos Wire).

Health was one of the issues Okung did assuage with the Broncos. He played in all 16 games for the first time in his career.

The Broncos will look to free agency and the draft to upgrade their offensive line, though they could also try to bring Okung back on a deal more in line with what they want to pay him.

Okung, 29, could benefit this offseason from being the best available left tackle. Andrew Whitworth is the most notable left tackle who will be a free agent, but at 35 years old, he's much closer to the end of his career than the beginning.