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Injuries prematurely end Phillip Lindsay’s season

Lindsay disappointing season had been teetering since the Broncos signed Gordon in March.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Phillip Lindsay was placed on injured reserve Saturday, officially ending a disappointing season for the Broncos’ popular running back that seemed doomed from March 20 when Denver signed free-agent running back Melvin Gordon III to a two-year, $16 million contract.

An undrafted rookie out of the University of Colorado in 2018, Lindsay took the NFL by surprise by rushing for 1,037 yards and 9 touchdowns, stats that earned him a Pro Bowl nod even though he missed the final game of the regular season with a torn right wrist that required surgery.

Lindsay affirmed his talent last year by rushing for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns, even though he later admitted his previous year’s wrist injury had bothered him much of the season.

But the Broncos wanted a more powerful 1-2 punch in the running game and signed Gordon to a contract that is paying him $9 million in salary and bonuses this year and $7 million in 2021. Let’s just say the Gordon-Lindsay duo didn’t rival the Cleveland Browns’ Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt for the league’s top rushing tandem.

With Lindsay sitting out a third consecutive game with a turf toe injury, Gordon rushed for 107 yards in the Broncos’ week 4 win against the New York Jets, then was hit with a driving under influence and speeding charges prior to the next game against New England. Gordon missed the New England game, then slumped until he started running well the past month or so. He has 814 yards rushing and 28 catches for another 141 receiving yards with 9 combined touchdowns with two games remaining.

Even with the turf toe injury, Lindsay was outperforming Gordon in the middle part of the season when he rushed for 101, 79 and 83 yards in consecutive games against the Patriots, Chiefs and Chargers. But a concussion and knee injuries would slow down Lindsay considerably down the stretch and he finishes with 502 yards rushing and just one touchdown. The knee and then a hip injury aggravated in the Broncos’ loss last Saturday to the Bills put Lindsay on the sidelines for good this season.

After playing on a relatively sparse $750,000 salary in 2020, Lindsay is a restricted free agent after this season. The Broncos could either give him a second-round tender worth approximately $3 million, which would all but secure his return, or give him a low tender which would give them ability to match any qualifying offer but not receive compensation in return.

Lindsay could also consider requesting a trade or release so he could find a team where he would have a better chance of again becoming a No. 1 running back. The Broncos may not entertain such a plea, though, because, one, they don’t have to as they control Lindsay’s rights. And two, the Broncos have to first let Gordon’s DUI legal matter play out.

If Gordon is found guilty on any type of DUI charge, he figures to receive a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. And his suspension would cause the Broncos to nullify $6.5 million worth of guarantees on Gordon’s $7 million payout next year.

Gordon wants to keep those guarantees intact, one reason why he didn’t reach a settlement on his DUI charge in a Denver court two weeks ago, opting instead for a delayed court hearing to January 14.

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