I want to touch briefly on the Broncos’ visit with Russell Okung and what it could mean, depending on what Okung and the Broncos decide to do.
We know that the Broncos have had talks with Ryan Clady about reducing his cap charge. I imagine the Broncos want him to take a pay cut, with the ability to earn money back through incentives. I also believe Clady and his agent are hopeful that they could get an additional year added to his contract as a concession for any salary reduction.
As for Okung, I think he has to realize that he’s not going to get paid top money because his play hasn’t demonstrated that’s justified. The question becomes how much money he should get and whether or not he would play at left tackle.
The Giants had already visited with Okung but he left without a deal. Reportedly the Giants were interested in having him play right tackle, a position he hasn’t played since his freshman year at Oklahoma State University. While it seems like a good idea to try him on the right side, we must remember the last time the Broncos took a left tackle and moved him to the right side didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean it should be ruled out, but you would have to really minimize your risk in a contract in case he struggles on the right side.
Also, there is no way the Broncos will sign Okung and keep Clady, especially if Clady does not reduce his cap number. Given that I believe the Broncos would like to sign a couple other free agents, whether they are their own or played with somebody else, they can’t afford to keep Clady at his current cap number and add Okung. Remember, the bad teams are the ones that do not use their cap space effectively, and even cutting Britton Colquitt isn’t going to be enough to fit in Okung and keep Clady at his full salary, while adding another free agent or two who could help out at other positions.
So I believe the best thing to do is to decide whether it’s best to stick with Clady for another year or sign Okung and cut Clady. Whether or not you sign Okung, though, depends on whether he is willing to take less money than he is seeking.
I previously wrote that the best option for the Broncos with Clady is to reduce his total salary to $6M, with $2M as a signing bonus, $2M as a roster bonus and $2M as a base salary and make it all fully guaranteed. They could then turn the 2017 salary into a team option, which if they pick up, the money becomes fully guaranteed, or if they decline, Clady becomes a free agent. Revamping the contract that way puts Clady’s cap number at $5.6M.
If the Broncos were to cut Clady and sign Okung, the Broncos need to keep Okung’s cap charge for 2016 at no higher than $5M, so they have enough space left to add other free agents they may want to retain or find elsewhere. So the best type of deal to sign Okung to would be a two-year deal that gives him $6M up front, with the first year structured like I would have structured the Clady deal ($2M signing bonus, $2M roster bonus, $2M base salary). The Broncos could then offer a salary of $9M in 2017, which would put Okung closer to the top in terms of salaries for left tackles if he proves himself in 2016, or they could cut him and save that $9M in cap space while taking just a $1M dead money hit from the signing bonus.
The contract structure I proposed would mean a two-year, $15M contract, which I think would be reasonable for Okung, but that’s about as high as I would go. If Okung isn’t willing to take such a deal, then it’s best to let Okung sit on the open market and keep negotiating with Clady.
As for other players who the Broncos could extend or bring in for a visit, here are some suggestions:
Omar Bolden: Of the remaining free agents who haven’t been re-signed, Bolden makes the most sense to bring back at this point. I think he could be signed for around the same amount of money that David Bruton took after his first rookie deal expired.
Jared Crick: I’ve mentioned the Texans defensive lineman previously as somebody who could be a younger version of Antonio Smith. He should have some familiarity with the Broncos’ defense, having played for Wade Phillips. The Broncos should be able to sign him for money comparable to what Vance Walker received.
Garrett Graham: The former Texans tight end is a street free agent and wouldn’t count against the Broncos’ compensatory pick count. He is familiar with Gary Kubiak’s offense and would likely have to take the veteran minimum.
Geoff Schwartz: Among veteran guards who are street free agents, Schwartz looks like the best option available. He’s 29 years old and will likely have to take a one-year, low-cost deal.
John Kuhn: He hasn’t re-signed with the Packers yet and, if Gary Kubiak wants to utilize a fullback, he could be worth a look. He’s 33 years old so he’d have to take the veteran minimum.
Keep in mind, though, that in order to fit even these players under the cap, you will still need wiggle room to accommodate them. That’s why signing Okung and keeping Clady at his current charge won’t happen. The most likely scenario is the Broncos will choose one or the other, depending on who they can get at the more reasonable cap charge, and use whatever space is freed to address other positions.