All the Denver Broncos have to do is decide whether to give the NFL’s fourth-highest running back pay to C.J. Anderson.
Whether it’s the Miami Dolphins or Broncos that pay it, Anderson will get $6 million that will tie him with Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray for this season’s fourth-largest running back pay out.
Only Adrian Peterson, who will draw $11 million from the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, who just got a new contract that will pay $8 million this year, and Chris Ivory, whose new deal with Jacksonville will pay him $7.5 million in 2016. will make more than Anderson. (Editor's note: When this story was initially published, Anderson was listed as tied for third as Ivory's new contract was not yet listed. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch was to draw $9 million but he recently retired).
Here is Miami’s offer to Anderson, as NFL sources confirmed to 9NEWS:
2016: $5.25 million signing bonus due March 31 (guaranteed). $675,000 salary (guaranteed), $100,000 workout bonus. Total: $6 million.
2017: $2.9 million salary ($1.7 million guaranteed). $100,000 workout bonus. Total: $3 million.
2018: $4.5 million salary (not guaranteed).
2019: $4.5 million salary (not guaranteed).
Total: 4 years, $18 million.
The Broncos have until 2 p.m. Tuesday to match.
When it comes to matching, the most difficult aspect for the Broncos will be the $5.25 million check that has to be written within 18 days. After the first year, though, the final three annual payouts of $3 million, $4.5 million and $4.5 million can be viewed as team-friendly for a running back who just turned 25 years old, rushed for 72, 72 and 90 yards on 4.3 yards per carry in three postseason games, and already has a Pro Bowl appearance and Super Bowl title.
If the Broncos do match, it would be inconsistent with how they viewed Anderson as a restricted free agent. On Monday, the Broncos surprisingly didn’t give Anderson the second-round, $2.553 million salary designation.
Instead, the Broncos gave him the lowest, right-of-first-refusal tender that was to pay him a $1.671 million salary.
Once the industry realized Anderson could be had without compensating the Broncos with a draft pick, much less a second rounder, nine teams contacted his agent Peter Schaffer during the tampering window Monday and Tuesday to express their interest.
Add in the Broncos and one-third of the league were in on Anderson, who is considered a rare four-tool (blocking, receiving, rushing and smarts) back.
The C.J. sweepstakes eventually came down to a Final Four of Miami, Chicago, New England and San Francisco. And then it was whittled to Chicago and Miami. John Fox, the Chicago Bears’ head coach, has always preferred a two-back system and wanted Anderson to pair with Jeremy Langford.
The Bears even had the richest offer at four years, $19 million. Anderson nearly picked the Bears as he was about to board a flight from the San Francisco airport to Chicago on Wednesday afternoon.
Instead Anderson went to Miami and its four-year, $18 million offer in large part because of his familiarity with Adam Gase’s offense. Gase, the Dolphins’ new head coach, was the Broncos’ record-setting offensive coordinator in 2013-14.
The Broncos now have two options: They can admit a $3.45 million mistake (the difference between the second-round tender salary of $2.55 million and the $6 million Anderson will instead receive) and match the offer. In that case, Anderson is a Bronco.
Or the Broncos can pass on matching and set their sights on either free-agent running back Alfred Morris or Arian Foster – or both.
In that case, Anderson would become a Dolphin.
Match or no match, the Broncos are expected to select a running back within the first two days of the three-day draft. The top three running backs on just about everyone’s list for the 2016 draft that will be held April 28-30 in Chicago: Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry and Devontae Booker.