On Wednesday, the Broncos declined to exercise Ray's fifth-year option, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic, which means 2018 is the final season that Ray is under contract with the team. While there's always a chance Ray earns a new contract, 2018 might be his final year in Denver.
Taken with the 23rd pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Ray was supposed to form an unstoppable pass-rushing trio with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. But Ray never caught on. In a 14-game rookie season, Ray recorded only four sacks. In 2016, he doubled his sack output, but saw his production slip to one sack in eight games last season.
To make matters worse for Ray, the 2018 NFL Draft's top pass-rushing prospect, Bradley Chubb, . Suddenly, the Broncos' pass-rushing crew looks mighty crowded with the likes of Miller, Chubb, Shaquil Barrett, Derek Wolfe, and Ray spearheading their defensive front. Barrett's the one to keep an eye on considering he plays the same position as Ray. Over the past three seasons, Barrett's accumulated 11 sacks -- only two fewer than Ray's total. Like Ray, Barrett's deal expires after the season, so the Broncos will have a couple important decisions to make next offseason.
The bottom line is that Ray just hasn't produced like a first-round pick, while the Broncos' roster already contains a whole host of capable pass rushers not named Shane Ray. That's why the Broncos didn't feel like paying him $9.2 million for the 2019 season, which would've been guaranteed for injury.
Ray appears to have found motivation by the recent events, tweeting the following messages after the Broncos drafted Chubb:
2016 double digit sacks as a backup. 2017 injury— Shane Ray (@StingRay56) April 28, 2018
2018 just watch
No more social media. I’m going dark ✌🏽— Shane Ray (@StingRay56) April 29, 2018
It remains to be seen if that extra motivation will be enough for him to finally turn the corner. Regardless of what happens in 2018, someone is likely to give him another chance in 2019 given his potential and age (24). His quality of play in 2018 will now determine how much money he gets after his current contract runs its course this season.