Broncos decline fifth-year option on Garett Bolles

Left tackle will become free agent in 2021
Posted at 5:00 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 19:00:08-04

DENVER -- After weighing past performance against the future salary, the Broncos declined the fifth-year contract option on left tackle Garett Bolles.

Bolles, who will turn 28 on May 27, will become a free agent after this season. He enters training camp competing with Elijah Wilkinson for the starting job, one Bolles has held for three seasons. Bolles has started every game of his career -- predictability coach Vic Fangio praised last season -- but leads the league in penalties since joining the Broncos.

The flurry of flags helped make the decision, but the salary cannot be overstated. Bolles would have been due $11.064 million in 2021 if the club option was exercised. That would have made Bolles the 18th highest-paid tackle, a difficult figure to justify for a player who has been nearly benched twice the past two seasons and drawn the ire of fans because of his untimely mistakes. There was an argument to pick up the option because it was guaranteed for injury only -- and Bolles has never missed a game. The Broncos could have cut him before the start of the league year in 2021, and moved on.

In the end, the Broncos determined Bolles was not worth the potential salary. General manager John Elway said Bolles was not guaranteed a starting job, but he believed in the Broncos' depth enough not to draft Josh Jones or Ezra Cleveland in the second round last week.

"As Vic said, it’ll be an open competition at the left tackle with Eli and Garett Bolles. We just didn’t feel like we were in a situation to where we could add to that. I think with where we were and what our game plan was, the tackle never fell for us as far as something we thought that there was a player there that could help us at that position," Elway said. "We still feel like we can be very competitive with the tackle situation that we have and the open competition. The best player is going to play.”