The Denver Broncos took a little flack for not exercising Shane Ray’s fifth-year option. His recent wrist injuries are making the team look pretty smart.
It’s a little unusual for a team to decline to exercise a former first round pick’s fifth-year option when they project him to be a starter. That’s just the case the Broncos find themselves in with Shane Ray. So far, it seems the Broncos are handling the talented linebacker perfectly.
Unfortunately for Ray, the wrist injury that cost him half of his 2017 season is popping up as a problem again this year. The Broncos are going to hold him out of minicamp as a result. He probably won’t be back on the practice field with Denver until preseason begins in earnest.
His injury concerns validate Denver’s decision to decline his fifth-year option. They simply can’t afford to guarantee big money to a player who could miss significant time due a previously existing injury. The fact that his wrist is still bothering him makes it clear there’s something awry with his medicals. The Broncos certainly knew that and chose to pass on giving him an extra year.
The decision to hold him out of contact drills for the time being is also the right move. If the Broncos are going to get anything out of Ray at all this season, they need his wrist to hold up. Rushing him to be a full participant in minicamp isn’t going to really help him heading into his fifth season as a pro. He should have a pretty good grasp of the defensive system already.
The real question now is whether or not the Broncos can count on Ray to be a key member of their defense this season. Heading into camp, he was projected as the team’s starter at strong side linebacker. It’s possible 2017 second-round pick DeMarcus Walker could flip over from the weak side to grab his starting spot. It’s something to watch as preseason in Denver marches forward.
If Ray wants to earn a new deal from the Broncos or anyone else next offseason he’s going to have to prove he can stay healthy. Only a productive 2018 season is going to make the Broncos rethink their decision to withhold a fifth-year offer for the intriguing young linebacker.