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Broncos expected to tender restricted free agent Lindsay - but at what level?

Homegrown, undrafted running back figures to get competing offers if he gets original round tender. A second-round tender would all but assure his return.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — The Broncos are expected to tender restricted free agent Phillip Lindsay, the team’s homegrown running back, a source tells 9NEWS.

A bigger question remains as the team has not yet determined whether to place an original -- in Lindsay’s case a no-round tender -- or a second-round tender that would carry an estimated 2021 salary of $3.38 million (not guaranteed).

> Above video: Phillip Lindsay speaks at Inclusive Sports Summit in 2020.

What does it all mean?

The second-round tender would bring less hassle as it would all but prevent other teams from submitting an offer sheet to sign away the explosive, diminutive rusher who hailed from Denver South High School and the University of Colorado. His local ties and disposition that is both charming and edgy (not to mention his great hair) have made him one of the Broncos’ most popular players in recent years, both among fans and his teammates.

In the case of a second-round tender, a competing team would have to first, submit Lindsay with a contract offer sheet that would have to be lucrative enough to sign him away from the Broncos. And secondly, a competing team would also have to compensate Denver with a second-round draft pick or something comparable.

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Phillip Lindsay warms up prior to an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020.

It presents a double-whammy of sorts. While there have been cases of an opposing team submitting a competitive offer sheet to a second-round tendered restricted free agent (RFA) player, it’s a rare occurrence.

Two other Broncos who were undrafted and are now RFAs, receiver Tim Patrick and inside linebacker Alexander Johnson, have also performed well enough to expect tenders, although again, it hasn’t been determined whether they will receive original round or second-round levels.

In 2016, the Broncos gambled, and lost, by giving an original-round tender to undrafted RFA running back C.J. Anderson instead of giving him a $2.553 million, second-round tender. The zero draft-pick compensation allowed Anderson to draw interest from multiple teams before his agent Peter Schaffer engaged in negotiations with the Miami Dolphins and their then-head coach, and former Broncos’ offensive coordinator, Adam Gase. The result was a front-loaded, four-year, $18 million contract that included $6 million in the first year. The Broncos matched, which gave Anderson 2.5 times greater compensation ($6 million) in 2017 than he would have had from a second-round tender ($2.553 million).

So why consider an original round tender? While a $3.38 million salary is good value for a running back who had back-to-back, 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2018-19, a team may view it as a little rich for a back whose production dropped 50 percent in 2020 because of injuries and shared playing time with new back Melvin Gordon III. An original tender carries a non-guaranteed $2.18 million salary.

Gordon, who made $9 million last season, rebounded from a slow start to finish with 986 rushing yards in 2020. He is scheduled to make $6.97 million this season with his $4.5 million salary guaranteed and another $2 million bonus that becomes guaranteed once he reports to training camp.

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Possibly complicating that deal is Gordon’s DUI and speeding case that is scheduled for jury trial on April 8 in Denver District Court. Gordon has entered a plea of not guilty to all charges. If he is found guilty or enters a plea to lesser charges, the NFL would likely suspend him from the first three games of the 2021 season for violating its substance abuse policy. The league has been monitoring Gordon’s case as it does for all matters involving law enforcement.

Just as significantly, Gordon’s guarantees would likely be voided, which in turn could ultimately put his 2021 status with the Broncos in question.

The Broncos must submit its RFA tender to Lindsay by March 17, so it has to prepare for the worst-case scenario that Gordon would be suspended from the first three games, during which Lindsay would be available as a formidable replacement.

Phillip Lindsay stats

Year …… C …….. Y .… Y/C … TD …. REC ...… Y . TD

2018 … 192 … 1,037 …. 5.4 ..… 9 ……. 35 … 241 … 1

2019 … 224 … 1,011 …. 4.5 ….. 7 ……. 35 … 196 … 0

2020 … 118 …… 502 … 4.3 ..…. 1 …..… 7 ….. 28 … 0

Totals . 534 … 2,550 …. 4.8 .… 17 …... 77 …. 465 … 1

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