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Denver Broncos don't pick up Russell Okung's option

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A year after negotiating his own deal in free agency, Broncos offensive tackle and former first-round pick Russell Okung finds himself back on the market.

According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, the Broncos have declined to pick up the option on Okung's contract. His initial deal was essentially a one-year, $5 million pact with an option for a four-year, $48 million agreement. Only after the option would any guaranteed money kick in. Rapoport noted that Okung did make the extra $3 million available in incentives, so Okung leaves Colorado with $8 million in total.

Fox Sports first reported the development.

Obviously this was a one-year fix for the Broncos, who never intended on paying Okung in the long term without asking him to re-work the remaining stages of the deal. His departure, though, puts a good offensive lineman on the market at a time when not many are expected to emerge through the draft or via free agency. Okung, 29, started all 16 games for the Broncos last year.

Andrew Whitworth, the 35-year-old veteran from Cincinnati, might rival Okung right now as the top option on the market.

The Broncos now have a glaring hole at the left tackle spot and two unproven quarterbacks vying for the starting role behind center. Pro Football Focus, one of the few sites brave enough to rank offensive linemen, rated Okung the 38th best tackle in football last season. Denver spent a second-round pick on tackle Ty Sambrailo in 2015 though he played fewer than 250 snaps this season.

So it goes in free agency, where big deals become moot less than a year after they are signed. Okung garnered attention for going out on his own and praise for working out his own deal, but will the experience motivate him to use an agent this time around? This might be especially important given how weak the tackle market is and how strong the need for professional-grade talent has become.

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