DENVER — The Broncos declined the $11.064 million, fifth-year option for the 2021 season on left tackle Garett Bolles, sources told 9NEWS, which was the first to report the news.
The team’s first-round pick in the 2017 draft, Bolles is still in line to start at left tackle for the Broncos in 2020 – providing he beats out Elijah Wilkinson for the job in training camp.
Bolles, who turns 28 later this month, will make $1.97 million this year. He had drawn $9.3 million in signing bonus and salaries through his first three years in which he started all 48 games.
The decision to decline Bolles’ fifth-year option makes sense for both sides. For Bolles, he now has a chance in year four to prove he’s an above-average NFL left tackle. If he does, he can command a contract worth at least $15 million a year through unrestricted free agency – instead of being under team control for the $11.064 million in 2021.
Arizona left tackle D.J. Humphries, a first-round draft pick in 2015, had a tougher start to his career than Bolles. Yet, in his fourth season of playing, Humphries performed well enough to receive a three-year, $45 million extension in mid-February.
For the Broncos, they don’t absorb the $11.064 million risk against injury in case Bolles suffered a season-ending injury that would preclude him from passing a physical next March.
Although, Bolles has been durable and has demonstrated high-level athleticism at his position, he has been plagued by holding penalties. He was flagged for 13 holding penalties last year, although six were declined.
Broncos general manager John Elway told 9NEWS after the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Saturday that Bolles would compete with Wilkinson for the starting left tackle position. Wilkinson has started 19 games the past two games at right guard and right tackle.
"Obviously, everyone’s frustrated with Garett," Elway said in a Zoom interview with 9NEWS. "He’s got to stop with his penalties but he did some good things later in the year. He got better. I think (offensive line coach) Mike Munchak did a heckuva job and (assistant offensive line coach) Chris Kuper they did a heckuva job with him.
"He still has the ability. He’s got to learn – he’s got to stop the penalties. Those are unacceptable anymore. He’s going into his fourth year. They have to stop. But Garett is going to come in and compete. And Vic will tell you that, too. He’ll come in and compete with Eli at left tackle and for Garett to go on with his career he’s going to have to correct those problems he’s had in the past as far as when it comes down to penalties."
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