The defending Super Bowl champions Denver Broncos have entered the sweepstakes for big offensive tackle Russell Okung, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN. Anderson tweeted that Okung will meet with the Broncos today.
I'm told Russell Okung is traveling today for a visit with the #Broncos.
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 16, 2016
The 6-foot-5, 307 pounder is the highest-ranked free agent still available, according to Pro Football Rumors‘ list of top free agents, as he was tabbed as the publication’s 11th best free agent. He has also drawn interest from the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, and Detroit Lions along with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Steelers have since decided against pursuing Okung due to his price tag — Okung is reportedly seeking $11 to $13 million per year. Okung has also not ruled out the possibility of returning to the Seattle Seahawks where he has spent his entire career.
Okung, who is representing himself, was selected with the sixth overall pick of the first round by the Seahawks in the 2010 draft. The 28-year-old has been a mainstay on the ‘hawks offensive line since his rookie campaign, starting all 72 games of his career – including 13 last season. However, Okung has been injury prone and has yet to play a full season. He had shoulder surgery in January.
Okung has been beset by nagging injuries throughout his career. The seventh-year pro’s best season came in 2012 when he was selected to the Pro Bowl and graded out as a 12 by NFL Pro Reference. He won a Super Bowl title with the Seahawks in 2013.
The Broncos are possibly in need of a left tackle because last season’s starter Ryan Harris signed with the Steelers and they have reached a stalemate in trying to renegotiate veteran Ryan Clady’s contract. Harris started 16 games, plus all three postseason games, last year after signing a one-year contract with the Broncos after Clady tore his ACL. Harris, who was graded out as an 8 by Pro Football Reference, signed a two-year, $3.9 million deal with the Steelers.
Fansided is reporting that Okung’s visit to Denver could help fast track Clady’s decision to renegotiate, if he wants to stay with the Broncos. Clady has one of the best tackles in the game since being drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft. The 29-year-old has made four Pro Bowls and was named First Team All-Pro twice but missed all last season due to injury – he also managed just two appearances in 2013.
Clady is due $9.5 million this year with a cap of $10.1 million. The Broncos, per 9News, is looking to cut Clady’s salary to less than $5 million. If Denver were to cut Clady, it would cost them $1.2 million in dead money.
If the Broncos sign Okung, he would immediately become their starting left tackle opposite recently signed right tackle Donald Stephenson. Stephenson comes to the Mile High City after spending the previous four years with Kansas City. His pact is reportedly worth $14 million over three years. Michael Schofield would be the team’s third tackle, backing up both positions.
Denver would then likely move second-year tackle Ty Sambrailo to an offensive guard spot opposite Max Garcia. Sambrailo has the ability to play both tackle positions.
Denver has already had a busy offseason, losing quarterback Brock Osweiler and defensive tackle Malik Jackson along with Harris and others. The Broncos did re-sign running back C.J. Anderson, while signing linebacker Von Miller is reportedly still a priority.
The market of available top offensive tackles is dwindling by the day as Donald Penn has re-signed with the Oakland Raiders, leaving Andre Smith (Cincinnati Bengals) as one of the few options for teams.
[AP Photo by Scott Eklund]