John Elway's Message to Phillip Lindsay on an Extension Takes on New Tonality

Chad Jensen

One of the unfortunate collateral effects of the Denver Broncos giving Melvin Gordon $16 million over two years is the kybosh it puts to Phillip Lindsay garnering a pay-raise. Despite John Elway saying publicly in his end-of-season presser that the team would take a hard look at offering Lindsay an extension, the GM's message on Tuesday was basically, 'Sorry, but you're going to have to wait.' 

"I’ve talked with Phillip’s agent," Elway said during his Tuesday conference call with local media alongside head coach Vic Fangio. "We’ll see what happens [with] what we can do later on. That’s not a guarantee either way, but we’ll see what we can do later on.” 

Elway went from showering Lindsay with praise on December 30 and openly acknowledging the possibility of an extension to offering no guarantees that one will ever get done. So, what changed? 

NFL teams rarely pay a player until they absolutely have to, which is one of the reasons Elway's comments on December 30 caused me to raise my eyebrows. That begs the question, when will the Broncos have to pay Lindsay? 

The third-year back is under contract for 2020, set to make a base salary of $750,000. Next spring, he'll be a restricted free agent. Following the 2021 season — two years from now — Lindsay will hit unrestricted free agency. 

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He's under team control for the next two seasons, so if indeed Elway never planned on giving Lindsay a raise until he had to, why did the GM not only keep the issue alive in the court of public opinion but also arguably breath life into it? 

The only logical explanation is the change at offensive coordinator. When Elway made his initial comments about being open to giving Lindsay a raise, Rich Scangarello was the Broncos' OC. Three weeks later, Scangarello was fired and Pat Shurmur replaced him. 

Shurmur's offensive school of thought venerates the pass-catching running back. Fitting that reality over the Lindsay framework, it was Lindsay himself who talked about his desire to vastly improve as a receiver during this offseason while he was cleaning out his locker. 

In two NFL seasons, Lindsay has caught a total of 70 passes. Meanwhile, at Shurmur's last stop as head coach of the New York Giants, RB Saquon Barkley caught 91 passes in 2018 as a rookie and 52 this past season alone. You can go back to all of Shurmur's NFL stops as either a head coach or offensive coordinator and you'll find that more often than not, his running back caught at least 50 passes. 

But here's the thing; while Gordon is a solid receiver out of the backfield, he's no Austin Ekeler. Receiving is not Gordon's strong suit. It can be argued, however, that Gordon is a more accomplished receiver than Lindsay, and there's the rub. 

In a perfect world, Shurmur would like for his running back to be well rounded and able to meet any and all expectations or possibilities as a runner, a receiver and a pass blocker. It's a good bet that Shurmur wasn't confident Lindsay could check all three boxes competently, so the Broncos brought in reinforcements and did so at a premium. 

Lindsay is taking the Gordon addition in stride, though. The Colorado Kid has already embraced Gordon as a teammate while laying down the gauntlet in an interview with KUSA's Mike Klis on Monday.

“When camp comes around it’s going to be a battle," Lindsay told Klis. "I’m not just going to sit there and give somebody the job. They can. But I’m going to go out there and I’m going to battle." 

When it comes to any rumor about Lindsay perhaps demanding a trade in the wake of the Gordon acquisition, Lindsay tamped that down as well.

"Nah. If you’re hearing that stuff I don’t know where you’re getting that from. Nothing like that going on," Lindsay told Klis.

One thing is clear; Lindsay believes he's outplayed his modest college free-agent contract and his back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns reinforce that belief. Elway got Lindsay's hopes for a raise up but it sounds like the young back is going to have to show patience and keep his nose to the grindstone. 

If Lindsay's career continues on the trajectory it's been on, he's likely in line for another productive season (even with Gordon eating into his touches), especially with the promise of playing with a stable and dynamic quarterback like Drew Lock. 

Lindsay can at least look forward to a significant one-year raise on an RFA tender next spring, which would, at worst, more than double the salary he's set to earn in 2020. Meanwhile, Gordon — who's earned one more Pro Bowl berth while posting one less 1,000-yard rushing season than Lindsay through his five-year NFL career, will make nearly 10 times what Lindsay will in 2020. 

If that doesn't sound right to you, you're probably not alone in that belief.  

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen and @MileHighHuddle.

Comments (10)
No. 1-10
Bronco_J
Bronco_J

This kid has done nothing but beat the odds. CU gave him a chance, now he owns their rushing records. Denver gave him a chance, he goes to the pro-bowl, and exceeds expectations. Now he's got to do it again and prove he can be elite. I'm learning to never bet against Phillip mfn Lindsay.

fbritt5
fbritt5

Obviously, Linsay is worth the effort. A great back that will be a compliment to Gordon, or vise versa. I am excited to see the progress the Broncos offense can get from this combination. John, pay the man. Thanks

frankmc
frankmc

this elway should thik about a person is only good as there word should of not said it reflects bad for broncos

Ringneck1
Ringneck1

Deserves got nothing to do with it. While it would make for a nice local boy done good fairy tale, that ain't the NFL. They have control of PL for two seasons if they choose, and then he will be a FA. I'll bet PL gets it. When is everyone going to get that NFL GM's have little incentive to tell the media the truth, but you can figure it out by watching what they do, not the words they say.

They may pay PL, but it will be on their schedule, not his. They may also choose to let him walk as an RFA next year or FA in 2022. Even under RFA he has no leverage the worst thing he could do is demand a trade. Unfortunately he plays the most under-valued position in sports and plays it in a way that means his longevity is an open question.

BeGoodBroncos
BeGoodBroncos

This is borderline fake news. Elway never said he was gonna give Lindsay an extension. The other quotes from Elway the author used in yesterday's article confirm this.

I see nothing in any of his quotes saying he was gonna extend. I see where he said they'd "Like" to extend.

In case anyone doesn't know, the NFL and Life in general aren't fair.

Not everyone has timeout rooms, participation trophies and bicycle helmets. Lol

Denverkewl
Denverkewl

The last time Elway tossed a free $3 mm at historically producing nice guy fan fave who was supposedly a long term dedicated die hard Bronco - it blew up in his face. Instead of giving him credit for even considering it again, people wanna trash him for saying he might consider it after the draft - AFTER. The man can't win. So what? It seems media types are twisted over what they consider overpaying for a RB with dough that could have gone to Lindsay - and then say yeah I like Gordon but not his contract. Heck I think its too much for a RB too...but it makes sense given what they are trying to do to compete with the SB Champs. Philip can't do that yet...and needs work catching passes and pass pro. Now Elway knows he cant practice and Elway cant see improvement in OTAs etc...maybe in TC. So he pays him now and he keeps dropping passes in TC? Then what? Some may say he won't - but he led the freakin team in drops in live games not TC. Lindsay picks up his game and he'll get paid - how about we focus on that.

Jefffrey55
Jefffrey55

Comments were made following a media circus criticizing the Gordon deal and assuming facts of the intentions of the organization that are completely false. Lindsay will get his contract when drafting and free agency are over.

DKMI
DKMI

One of the things I really don’t like about the NFL is that performance has too little to do with pay. In a league where careers are extremely short, it’s all about where a player gets drafted. Players like Lindsay and Chris Harris get screwed by the fact scouts and GMs were wrong about them while players they clearly outperform that were taken in the high in the draft get to enjoy the spoils of where they were drafted. Heck, Royce Freeman’s signing bonus equaled Lindsay’s first two years of salary combined. What usually happens to these players is they get desperate for some security and sign deals ahead of free agency that are still lower than their market value. By the time they can really test the market, their age prevents them from truly cashing in.

Arctic Bronco
Arctic Bronco

The Colorado Kid should get a bonus. JE said he would do something so that means there will be activity on the contract.

It is such a shame that young players, especially RBs, are locked into pay scales for so many years. The CBA should have addressed this inequity.

Waltm6$6
Waltm6$6

I love the kid, why in the hell cant some of the highly paid players give back some of their salary so the kid can get a raise. If he doesn’t get a raise then he should just demand a to be traded. God willing he doesn’t suffer a career ending injury and not yet capitalized on his ability’s. Now get out there this season and catch the dam 50+ passes and force them to pay you.


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