Highlighted by his 2014 cream of the crop class, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway has shown a nose landing for a bargain deal or a headline signing. That being said, he didn’t have signing class last offseason. As such, it’s paramount that he lands some solid players before the 2017 season.

As with any offseason, the decisions facing Elway and the Broncos are especially difficult. While Elway might be saying farewell to one key player on Denver’s defense, Elway’s main focus this offseason will have be on an underachieving offense, particularly the offensive line.

The play of the left tackle often sets the tone for how the rest of the group will fare week by week. Coined a “quarterback’s best friend,” the importance of the position cannot be undervalued. When Elway replaced former All-Pro/oft-injured starter Ryan Clady with Seattle’s Russell Okung, the Broncos were thought to be set at the LT position well into the future.

Unfortunately for Denver, most notably Trevor Siemian, Okung did not live up to the offseason hype. Tying teammate Donald Stephenson with a monstrous 11 penalties, he appeared to be a poor fit for Gary Kubiak‘s zone-blocking scheme and was consistently beaten around the edge.

Okung’s contract is a bit more complicated than Elway’s previous signings, and the details of the contract can be read here. Essentially, if Elway decides to pay Okung’s $1 million option by the first day of the league’s new year, Okung’s 2017 and 2018 salary, coupled with his 2017 bonus, all become guaranteed.

For a player who was vastly seen as a disappointment, that’s a lot of cap space. But, as the rest of the free agent class begins to shape up, Denver could have a difficult time acquiring Okung’s replacement, as there are few to no viable options at the LT position.

A popular thought is that Elway should trade for all-pro Joe Thomas, who the Broncos were linked to him during the 2015 season. The idea is tempting, especially as Cleveland continues to rebuild (perpetually), but acquiring a superstar like Thomas would likely require Denver to give up more than Elway would probably be comfortable with; as a package would likely have to include, at bare minimum, a first-round pick.

Speaking of Denver’s first round pick, many draft analysts project the Broncos to use the the 20th overall selection on an offensive linemen. While this is a great idea, putting a rookie at the starting left tackle spot seldom works out unless that rookie is an elite prospect; and all of them are likely to be gone by the time the Broncos select.

With limited options to replace him, perhaps the Broncos would find it wiser to hold onto Okung for two more years, hoping for improvement in his play, especially if he is open to restructuring. A new offense with a new blocking system may play into Okung’s strengths better than Gary Kubiak’s did.

Holding onto Okung while the Broncos groom their left tackle of the future could be a great investment for the short term and the long run.