Offensive tackle Donald Stephenson has restructured his deal with the Broncos to remain in Denver, as Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Stephenson signed a three-year, $14MM contract with the club last offseason, but he struggled in his first year at Mile High. He started 12 games at right tackle and graded as the second-worst OT in the league among qualifying players per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required). He was responsible for three sacks and 11 penalties.
Still, as Troy Renck of Denver7 tweeted last night, Stephenson’s salary was low enough that the team was considering retaining him for depth, and now he will stick around at a price tag that the Broncos are more comfortable with. As Klis reports in a separate tweet, Stephenson was due a $4MM salary in 2017, and this restructure gives him $2MM in guaranteed money now; he will get the additional $2MM if he makes the team’s 53-man roster.
Speaking of the 53-man roster, Renck isn’t convinced that the lineman is a shoo-in to make the squad. The team has 10 draft picks in the upcoming draft, and the writer believes the organization could add a rookie to the unit. However, the Broncos are optimistic that new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson could help Stephenson improve.
The Chiefs selected Stephenson in the third round of the 2012 draft, and he has largely underwhelmed in his career. Stephenson opened his last season in Kansas City as the starting left tackle, but he ultimately lost that job to former first overall pick Eric Fisher.
The Broncos, though, desperately need as much help as they can get along the offensive line, especially since this year’s rookie crop of O-linemen is considered to be rather weak. The club lost last year’s starting left tackle, Russell Okung, to division-rival San Diego on Thursday.
Klis observes that the Broncos now have four offensive tackles in Stephenson, Menelik Watson, Michael Schofield, and Ty Sambrailo. Watson is the only member of that group that cannot play both guard and tackle, which does give Denver some positional flexibility (Twitter link). Klis adds (via Twitter) that Stephenson will likely get some LT reps, though the club is expected to sign or draft a left tackle as well.