Gut Reaction: Grasping at the Motivation Behind Broncos Letting Phillip Lindsay Hit the Market

Why did George Paton RFA tender Phillip Lindsay at the lowest level? The answer reveals why Lindsay's playing days in Denver are likely to come to a quick close.

Phillip Lindsay's true monetary worth to Denver Broncos GM George Paton may have been quantified when Melvin Gordon's DUI charges were dismissed by a Colorado judge. Had Gordon been found guilty, Lindsay likely would have received a second-round restricted free-agent tender to remain a Bronco, securing himself a $3.384 million salary for next season. 

Instead, Gordon’s stroke of good legal fortune meant he avoided a costly NFL suspension and perhaps even a release by the Broncos while Lindsay was tagged with an original-round RFA tender, effectively opening the door to the two-time 1,000-yard rusher to hit the open market.

Lindsay’s days in the Orange and Blue aren’t over yet, however, because Paton can still match any offer sheet an outside team might submit. The Broncos have employed such dangerous tactics when ex-GM John Elway tendered C.J. Anderson at the original round back in 2016, leading to the Miami Dolphins signing him to a lucrative offer sheet. Elway eventually matched it and opted to pay that money to Anderson.

In Anderson's case, Elway tendered him at the original-round level to genuinely see what the market would bear for him. It turned out to be north of $4M/year and that was for a back who'd (at that point) never produced a 1,000-yard rushing campaign. 

While it's possible Paton could be using a similar tack to divine Lindsay's true value, based on the pattern the Broncos have established with the player, the more plausible motivation simply comes down to the GM's view that Lindsay is no longer a fit since Pat Shurmur took over as offensive coordinator. 

Lindsay will have to hope for strong interest elsewhere in order to increase his market value to climb above the $2.1M the original-round RFA tender would pay him in Denver for 2021. That being said, Paton appears indifferent to the fact that Lindsay could walk right out the door and take his dynamic talents with him. 

For little more than $1M, Paton could have nearly guaranteed Lindsay would suit up for the Broncos this coming season, and if not, command a bonus second-round pick in return if an outside team signed him to an offer sheet. Paton could possibly glean even more capital by trading the 26-year-old former Pro Bowler.

The decision to tender Lindsay so lowly isn't likely to win much support within the throngs of Broncos Country. Lindsay's commitment, attitude, production, and homegrown story have made him a popular fan-favorite. 

The truth is, Lindsay has been increasingly undervalued within Dove Valley and Shurmur would prefer to roll with Gordon as his workhorse back. That's been made patently obvious over the last 15 months. 

Should interest not materialize on the open market, Lindsay could potentially bounce back to the Broncos on a $2.1M salary, but even then, his epic power struggle with Gordon is likely over. Lindsay is poised to play elsewhere in 2021, leaving Paton looking much more urgently towards the draft for a potential replacement because, remember, Gordon is a free agent after 2021.

Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.

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