ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos declined to exercise outside linebacker Shane Ray’s $9.23 million fifth-year option for 2019 on Thursday, a week after selecting North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb in the NFL draft.
Ray, the team’s top pick in 2015, promised a big bounce-back season after the Broncos selected Chubb with the fifth overall draft pick, something he’ll need if he’s going to cash in as an unrestricted free agent next March.
Ray’s fifth-year option would have been worth more than his four-year, $9,118,894 rookie contract he signed after the Broncos selected him with the 23rd overall pick in 2015 after his outstanding final season at Missouri in which he won SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Ray, who turns 25 in two weeks, has started just 15 games in three NFL seasons, collecting 84 tackles, 13 sacks and two fumble recoveries.
That production is similar to that of Shaq Barrett, an undrafted free agent from Colorado State who has 108 tackles, 11 sacks and seven forced fumbles over the past three seasons in Denver, where he started out as a practice squad player in 2014.
Barrett will make $2.914 million this season after the Broncos placed a second-round tender on him this offseason. By contrast, Ray’s 2018 salary is $1.678 million.
Playing behind DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, Ray had a solid rookie season, one that culminated in a pair of tackles and a forced fumble in the Broncos’ win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.
In 2016, he posted eight sacks and 48 tackles and became the first player since Jacksonville’s John Henderson in 2002 to collect three sacks in his first career start.
He looked primed for a breakout season last year following Ware’s retirement, but he broke his left wrist in July, which required a series of surgeries and forced him to miss half the season. Unable to hit the weights, he dropped 17 pounds to 225 and essentially played with just one arm before electing for another surgery with two weeks left in the season. He finished with just one sack and 15 tackles.
Ray took to social media during the draft, promising to rebound from his injury-marred season. After a series of exchanges with his Twitter followers over the weekend, he posted, “No more social media. I’m going dark” with a peace sign emoji.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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