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Grading Broncos' Acquisition of RB Melvin Gordon Based on Analytics

The Broncos just paid big money to a running back. Was it a smart move? Analytics tell the tale.

The Denver Broncos went out looking for a veteran running back in free agency and found one in Melvin Gordon, signing the ex-Charger to a two-year, $16 million deal with $13.5 million guaranteed. 

Gordon has been a productive, but not stellar, running back in his five NFL seasons. The biggest issue in offering him a free agent contract is his age.

What Analytics Say About RBs

The analysis of player Performance Value in this article clearly shows that running backs peak at age 26 and then go into decline. That does not bode well for the Broncos’ latest acquisition as Gordon will be turning 27 in less than a month. He will be playing out his new two-year contract at ages 27 and 28.

There is a ray of hope, however. Running backs tend to decline only minimally from age 26 to age 27, so there is a chance that Gordon will have a Performance Value justifying at least one season of his contract. 

At age 28, running backs decline rapidly, but typically perform above their mean (average) Performance Value. The Broncos could get one solid season out of Gordon and one mediocre season — if they're lucky.

Gordon has also performed far and away better than Royce Freeman, the player he is likely to replace on the Broncos' RB depth chart The two seasons that Freeman has been in the NFL, he has played below or at the position average.

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What it Means? Risky Business

Signing a free agent RB after 26 years of age is always a major risk. Being that it is only a two-year deal mitigates the risk slightly since they typically perform above the position mean Performance Value until they turn 29 years old.

Of all the moves GM John Elway has made during this free-agent period, this one is the worst.

Grade: C 

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