Denver Broncos Continue Questionable Roster Decisions on Defense

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos will not pick up the $9.2m fifth-year option on linebacker Shane Ray.

The move is being reported as a performance decision and not impacted by the Denver Broncos’ selection of Bradley Chubb in this year’s draft.  Ray has 13 sacks in 3 seasons in Denver.

It is important to note that over those three years, Ray has only 15 starts.  Eight of those starts came before the wrist injury that sidelined Ray for much of the 2017 season. In the three-year span in question, Ray is second on the Broncos with those 13 sacks.

Beyond statistics, which favor Ray, the Broncos can ill-afford another personnel decision that alienates players.  TJ Ward was a defensive leader and No Fly Zone founding member.  His unceremonious release last summer shocked fans.  More importantly, it shocked the defensive locker room. Instead of the Broncos vaunted secondary vying for an unprecedented third straight season at the top of the rankings, the Broncos dropped to fourth. They gave up clutch big plays.  The loss of Ward translated directly into a decline in performance for the secondary.

The Denver Broncos will have Ray for this season and then he becomes an unrestricted free agent.  Even with the proposed move of Chubb to OLB (a position he’s never played) there simply is not enough depth in the Broncos outside linebacker stable.  Beyond Von Miller’s 10 sacks, the Broncos defensive front seven had a brutal season putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Shane Ray had only seven games last year following his return from his wrist injury.  All seven were played with a cast on his injured wrist.  Not a long enough evaluation period to pass on a fifth year for the Missouri standout.  Ray has shown the ability to be a disruptive force along the Broncos line.  What he’s also shown and what’s largely forgotten in the sack-happy landscape of the current NFL is amazing outside speed.  Outside Linebacker is more than just pass rush.  Outside containment is critical and Ray’s speed makes him an outstanding containment guy.

It’s also important to know where Ray comes from.

 Shane Ray’s Players Tribune Story

The import of character like Ray’s can’t be undersold.  Call it integrity, call it “cred”, call it whatever helps to understand the value of Shane Ray.

Shane talks in his article about how it hit him that John Elway was on the phone on draft day and how it took a minute to sink in that he was a Bronco.

It was a display of respect to a man and a Franchise that had spent 30 years earning that mantle.

Maybe it’s time for the Denver Broncos to return some of that respect.