The Denver Broncos signed ex-Chargers running back Melvin Gordon to a two-year, $16 million contract this past March. The former 2015 first-round pick spent five years with the Chargers before defecting to the Division-rival Broncos.
By this point in the offseason, we normally would have already gotten a chance to see Gordon on the practice field sporting the Orange and Blue and doing his thing. Alas, due to the pandemic, all three phases of the NFL's Offseason Training Program were essentially canceled and converted into online meetings via virtual platforms like Zoom.
Meanwhile, quarterback Drew Lock, following the intense six-week quarantine from late March to early May, organized team workouts and throwing sessions away from the Broncos' UC Health Training Center. Lock and company worked on throwing routes to receivers while practicing the full playbook of new Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur.
We've only been able to catch a few glimpses of the players in attendance with Lock during those unofficial workouts. We know that guys like Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, and rookie wideouts Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, have at different times participated in these practice sessions.
From what I've been able to glean, one player who hasn't joined these workouts is Gordon. With images floating around social media showing Lindsay working out with Lock, naturally, some fans have wondered why Gordon hasn't also been spotted with his new teammates.
However, fans might want to cut Gordon some slack on this issue. It's not a matter of want-to or being uncommitted to football and the Broncos.
Gordon hasn't been paid yet.
About a week ago, Gordon got into a Twitter dust-up with local radio host Brandon Stokley about his contract. In one of his replies to Stokley, Gordon spilled the beans that he's yet to receive payment from the Broncos.
"Aye I ain’t got nothing to do with Phil," Gordon tweeted on June 23. "I’m unpaid, one, and two, don’t rain on my parade because you ain’t got nothing to talk about. I hope you get a pay cut because it’s way more workers that’s actually for players that’s more deserving than what you probably make... smh you sad."
This article isn't about trying to interpret Gordon's remarks about Lindsay but rather, understanding why the sixth-year back has likely been absent from the unofficial workouts with Lock and company. If you want some insight on the Gordon-Lindsay issue, read this article.
Helping to add context to what Gordon said, SI's Albert Breer published a piece that exposed why this offseason has been inordinately hard on free agents who signed with a new team this past spring. Due to the quarantine conditions mandated in the wake of coronavirus, most free agents were unable to travel to their new NFL cities in order to take the requisite physicals to make their new contracts official.
Some teams allowed third-party physicals to take place but many did not. Thus, many of these deals have only been agreed to in principle and won't become official until the player in question passes his physical with the team doctor. The very signing bonuses that players would have traditionally received within days of inking their contract have been postponed until the physicals can take place.
It would appear as if Gordon is in this camp. The deal he agreed to with the Broncos came with a $4M signing bonus and a $4M roster bonus but in light of him saying publicly that he's "unpaid", it's fair to assume that he's yet to receive any of that money.
A player in his shoes would be remiss to go out and practice away from the team facility and risk any injury that would potentially lead to him failing his physical or even coming close to sniffing the Non-Football Injury list.
If Gordon has indeed been absent from Lock's unofficial throwing sessions, most fans now understand why. It has nothing to do with heart or commitment. Until Gordon actually gets paid by the Broncos, he's in a kind of football limbo.
Fortunately, Gordon won't have to wait much longer as the Broncos will open training camp a little more than three weeks from now on July 28. NFL teams might be dragging their feet with regard to extending payment to 2020 free agents because there's still an air of uncertainty about how the regular season will play out and how a possible absence of fans in the stands could affect league revenue.
But the deal Gordon has with the Broncos has already been done. The last step that makes it bonafide is the physical and that'll likely have to wait just a little bit longer. But there's no reason to believe it won't happen.