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Broncos decline fifth-year, $9.2 million option on Shane Ray

A first-round selection, No. 23 overall, in the 2015 draft, Shane Ray has not met expectations, though he does have some legitimate reasons
Linebacker Shane Ray #56 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after sacking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings during a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 4, 2015. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

KUSA – Shane Ray was informed by Broncos management Wednesday the team would not exercise his fifth-year, $9.232 million option for the 2019 season, a league source told 9NEWS.

A first-round selection, No. 23 overall, in the 2015 draft, Ray has not met expectations, although he does have some legitimate reasons.

In his first two seasons, Ray was a back up to DeMarcus Ware, who figures to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first or second year of eligibility. Still, Ray flashed promise with 4.0 sacks in 2015 and 8.0 sacks in 2016.

In his third season of 2017, Ray seemed ready to break out as Ware had retired and Shaq Barrett suffered a hip injury that sidelined him through the offseason, training camp and preseason.

Shane Ray celebrates a defensive pass broken up at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 10, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images.

But Ray suffered torn left wrist ligaments on the first day of training camp, an injury that caused him to miss half the season and damaged his effectiveness when he did play. He had just 1.0 sack last season.

Regardless of circumstance, it’s difficult for a team to pick up $9.232 million on a pass rusher coming off a 1.0-sack season, even though that option is only guaranteed against injury.

And then with the No. 5 overall pick in the NFL Draft last week, the Broncos took pass-rushing defensive Bradley Chubb with plans to move him to Ray’s outside linebacker position.

Ray is still a Bronco. He will play on a $1,684,484 salary in 2018. And if he has a big year, he will be glad the Broncos didn’t exercise his option. Through the leverage of unrestricted free agency, he could wind up with a multiyear contract worth more than $9.232 million a year.

Still, it must be somewhat of an emotional blow to Ray, who when asked by 9NEWS back in December about the Broncos picking up his fifth-year option: “I would hope so. If they want to keep me here, I’d love to be here. I love everything about this place. That’s without question.’’

All first-round draft picks in 2015 were subject to a fifth-year team option that had to be exercised before those players’ fourth season. Ray was one of 12 of the 32 first-round draft picks who did have their fifth-year option exercised.

To date, the Broncos have a mixed record in picking up the fifth-year options on their first-round draft selections. They exercised the option on Von Miller (first round pick in 2011) and Bradley Roby (2014) but declined it on Sylvester Williams (2013) and Ray (2015). The team did not have a first-round selection in 2012.

At this time next year, the Broncos will be confronting a fifth-year option decision on quarterback Paxton Lynch.

Paxton Lynch scrambles against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 31, 2017. Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images.  

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