Denver Broncos general manager George Paton announced Thursday that the team plans to tender restricted free-agent wide receiver Tim Patrick and linebacker Alexander Johnson.
Paton would not divulge the specificities of the tenders but confirmed both unsigned players will return for the 2021 season.
“We’re going to tender both of those players. I’m not sure at what level. Again, two good football players that we look forward to being here in the future," he said.
Patrick started 15 games last season, filling in for injured star WR Courtland Sutton opposite then-rookies Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. The Utah product — nicknamed "Sutton Lite" — set career highs with 51 catches for 742 yards and six touchdowns across 750 offensive snaps.
Because Patrick is a former undrafted free agent, the Broncos may decide to apply an original-round tender, meaning no compensation if he signs a contract offer sheet with an outside team. They also could opt to use a second-round tender, valued at $3.384 million, which likely ensures his retention, barring a subsequent trade. (If tendered at this level, the Broncos would have five days to match any offer or receive a second-round draft pick from his new team.)
Johnson, the Broncos' leading tackler (124) in 2020, is in the same boat being a former UDFA. A key cog for head coach/defensive maestro Vic Fangio, the artist known as A.J. figures to receive a second-round tender and hang onto his ILB1 title. The organization, however, is expected to upgrade the position this offseason, potentially putting Johnson or fellow two-down thumper Josey Jewell on thin ice.
“I think in this league—Vic can tell you better than I can—you need pressure and you need cover players. You look at the good defenses around the league, teams can rush the quarterback and teams can cover. That is going to be a priority here," Paton said Thursday. "Vic will tell you that more than I will, but definitely a priority.”
Paton also disclosed that Denver will tender running back Phillip Lindsay prior to March 15, the opening of the league's legal tampering window. It's unclear how he plans on approaching the club's remaining RFAs: safety Trey Marshall, cornerback Kevin Toliver, and linebackers Austin Calitro and Josh Watson.
Follow Zack on Twitter @KelbermanNFL
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!