Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert (C) fumbles after being hit by Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray (56) during the first quarter at Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
The Denver Broncos are bidding that outside linebacker Shane Ray received a wakeup call when the team elected against picking up his fifth-year option earlier this month.
Ray has reacted well, according to Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, who hopes the former is motivated by possibly receiving a bigger contract next season.
"I’ve been really proud of Shane and how he’s responded," Joseph told the Denver Post. "He is really motivated. He understands it’s business. And he’s ready for a challenge. He wants to be a great player and, in my opinion, before he got hurt last year [early in training camp] he was on his way to having a great year.
"I am not surprised that he is motivated and engaged. The ball is in his court. He can earn a lot more than what the option offered him if he goes out there and does what we think he can do."
Had the Broncos picked up his option, Ray would have received a salary of $9.232 million guaranteed against injury only in 2019.
Ray has recorded 84 tackles and 13 sacks in 38 career games since being selected with the 23rd overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Missouri.
Brought in to eventually replace DeMarcus Ware, Ray collected four sacks as a rookie and eight in 2016, including three in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
However, the 25-year-old had only one sack last season as he battled a wrist injury and played in only eight games.
Ray finds himself behind All-Pro Von Miller and promising Shaq Barrett. The Broncos also used the fifth overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft to select pass-rushing specialist Bradley Chubb from North Carolina State.