ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos already had a running back with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in Phillip Lindsay, but still signed another running back — Melvin Gordon — in free agency because they want to fix what has been a sputtering offense.
The Broncos signed Gordon earlier this month to a two-year, $16 million deal, a significant financial commitment at a position where Lindsay, a highly popular (Denver) South High School graduate, has rushed for 1,011 and 1,037 yards in the past two seasons, respectively.
But the Gordon signing was a move that both president of football operations/general manager John Elway and coach Vic Fangio said they were in agreement on.
The Broncos scored 16 or fewer points in nine games last season — they were 2-7 in those games — and will have Drew Lock behind center in 2020 for his first full season as their starting quarterback.
“John and I really talked about it a while back,” Fangio said Tuesday. “We both shared the same view on it. … I’ve talked to Phillip, I talked to him [Monday] as a matter of fact, and we really didn’t talk about that part of it. Phillip is a competitor and just not going to give away his job and his carries.”
Lindsay, who went from an undrafted rookie to the Pro Bowl in 2018, led the Broncos in carries in each of the past two years. His 224 carries last season were 58.9% of the Broncos’ total rushes, and his 192 carries in 2018 were 48.9% of their rushing attempts that season.
So, even though offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has largely run a one-back system in his time as a playcaller, both Elway and Fangio believe there is room for Gordon to have impact in the offense as well.
“Pretty commonplace in the NFL right now to have two backs share the running back duties,” Fangio said. “There’s a lot of work to be had for the both of them. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
“The discussions we had with it, we thought it was important to have two really good backs,” Elway said. “In landing Melvin, we thought it was a good combination with Phillip.”
One of the issues down the road could be money, given that Elway said the day after the Broncos finished their 7-9 season that they would look into getting a new deal for Lindsay. Because Lindsay was an undrafted rookie when the Broncos signed him in 2018, his contract reflects that.
Lindsay is set to make a $570,000 base salary in the upcoming season while Gordon got a $4 million signing bonus and will have a $1 million base salary for the upcoming season.
“Obviously, there’s always concerns, and always issues when you bring somebody in, especially with the two years Phillip has had,” Elway said. “We’ll continue to look at that. I’ve talked to Phillip’s agent [Mike McCartney], we’ll see what happens and what we can do later on.
“That’s not a guarantee either way, but we’ll see what we can do later on.”
For his part, Gordon said last week he thinks he and Lindsay can coexist in the offense and that Lindsay had already reached out to him.
“He’s a great back, obviously I watched him up close, in person, and these past few days I’ve been watching film on him as well, just kind of seeing how they opened things up for him, analyzing a little bit,” Gordon said. “I think we could be a great one-two punch.”