KUSA—With the signing of right tackle Donald Stephenson to a three-year, $14 million contract, the Denver Broncos are beginning to form their new offensive line for the 2016 season.
Stephenson will get $6 million in year one of his deal, $4 million in year two and $4 million in year three.
Not bad for someone who never emerged as a full-time starting offensive tackle the previous four years with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Stephenson will start for the Broncos at right tackle, providing he can beat out Michael Schofield.
The breakdown of Stephenson’s contract:
2016: $3 million in signing or roster bonus; $3 million salary. (All $6 million fully guaranteed against skill, injury and salary cap).
2017: $4 million in base salary (guaranteed against injury. Fully guaranteed on fifth day of league year, or mid-March).
2018: $4 million in base salary (non-guaranteed).
So Stephenson’s contract can be broken down into one year for $6 million or two years for $10 million.
With Stephenson penciled in at right tackle, the Broncos will start Ty Sambrailo or Ryan Clady at left tackle.
The Broncos were trying to negotiate a restructured contract for Clady as free agency opened at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Clady was scheduled to make $9.5 million this season. The Broncos are expected to cut him at least in half with a chance to make more through playing time incentives.
If Clady is healthy and returns to form, he very well could earn his starting left tackle position. If he does, the Broncos could consider shifting Sambrailo to a starting guard spot opposite 2015 draft class mate Max Garcia.
The Broncos starting offensive line in 2016 could look like this, from left to right: Clady, Garcia, Matt Paradis, Sambrailo, Stephenson.
Stephenson played in 60 of 64 games for the Chiefs, starting 21. He was going to start at right tackle in 2014, but that was shelved when he was suspended the first four games for violating the league’s performance-enhancement policy.
The 6-foot-6, 312-pound Stephenson is considered athletic, nimble on his feet if not overly physical. Which makes him ideal for the zone-blocking system favored by Broncos’ head coach Gary Kubiak.