Denver Broncos' new GM George Paton arrived in the Mile High City with a clear goal to rebuild the team by drafting and developing players. Those basic principles, and many others, served him well enough to land him the job to succeed John Elway.
“Drafting and developing players will be our foundation,” Paton declared during his opening press conference last week. “It’s going to be the lifeblood of this football team.”
Paton's clarity is music to the ears of players like free-agent safety Justin Simmons who could form the nucleus of talent the GM plans to build around. One player who is far less sure about where he stands is fan-favorite Phillip Lindsay.
Lindsay enters his fourth NFL season after a record-breaking start to his career for an undrafted player, registering back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns to open his career. His fairy-tale story was hit hard by the injury bug in 2020, and it resulting in the talented running back being featured in fewer games (11) and racking up far fewer yards (502).
Lindsay becomes a restricted free agent this offseason and Paton will have to weigh whether to slap a tender on the former Colorado Buffalo. Applying the second-round RFA tender on the 26-year-old is expected to cost the Broncos $3.259 million for 2021, which, on the surface, is more than affordable in front office terms. Juxtaposed against Melvin Gordon's $8.96M salary-cap number, that second-round-tendered figure might become a bit more prohibitive.
Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's desired plan to develop a twin backfield attack didn't quite come to fruition with Lindsay getting hurt and that could inform Paton's approach. The first-time GM would be remiss to ignore Lindsay's intangible attributes, including his intensity and leadership, to say nothing of his popularity within Broncos Country, as checks in the 'pros' (vs. cons) column.
"We all believe that to draft and develop talent that you bring high character players into your organization, you develop them and hopefully get them second contracts, and that’s how you build your best culture," Paton said.
If culture is paramount, and production is king, additional evidence of Lindsay's value comes by way of his 2,550 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns to date. Rewarding the formerly undrafted Lindsay with a low-risk RFA tender would set a positive tone that hard work and perseverance can indeed pay off within the Broncos' culture and organization.
It would also safeguard what leverage the Broncos would have to counter any outside offer. You'd think that any GM worth his salt would agree that finding a way to keep your best players is good policy.