While the rest of the NFL world has their eyes glued on the disgruntled Deshaun Watson and the rest of the quarterback landscape, the Denver Broncos have a decision to make on Phillip Lindsay. As a restricted free agent (RFA), Lindsay will soon be able to negotiate and sign with any team, but if tendered by the Broncos, Denver would get the 'right of first refusal.'
If another team signs Lindsay to an offer sheet, and the Broncos opted not to match it, Denver would receive draft-pick compensation commensurate with the level (round) he is tendered at. NFL teams have until 2 pm MDT on March 18 to tender any RFAs.
Lindsay heads into his fourth NFL season after signing with the Broncos as a college free agent in 2018. Since then, the Colorado native shattered expectations, earning an unprecedented Pro Bowl nod as a rookie and becoming the first undrafted player to rush for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons to open a career
Not only did Lindsay accomplish it all as an undrafted free agent, but also as an undersized running back in a pass-happy league. On Monday, the 26-year-old fan-favorite made a guest appearance on 104.3 The FAN’s Nick and Cecil where he vented on his usage in the Broncos' offense last year and spoke to how running backs are being undervalued in the current passing climate of the NFL.
“I feel like it’s a joke,” Lindsay told hosts Nick Ferguson and Cecil Lammey. “The running back position is very important and the team that can run the football the best, is going to win games and that’s shown."
Last offseason, then-GM John Elway said publicly the Broncos would begin looking at an extension for Lindsay, though it never materialized. Instead, Elway surprisingly inked ex-Charger Melvin Gordon to a two-year contract worth $16 million with $13.5 million guaranteed.
When the season rolled around, Gordon outproduced Lindsay in Pat Shurmur's offense by 97 carries, 484 yards, and eight touchdowns. Lindsay struggled to stay healthy, which gave way to Gordon becoming more and more featured as the season marched along.
In 11 games, Lindsay logged 118 rushes for 502 yards and one touchdown which was the least productive season of his NFL career. Injuries derailed his 2020 campaign and his usage in Shurmur's offense didn't help.
“Everybody knows that I can run inside well,” Lindsay told Nick and Cecil. “But come on now, I’m 190 pounds. I can’t sit there and run up the middle 24/7, that’s just not my style. I have all this speed, I have great vision, I’m a person that can accelerate at any time. I just need to be put in position at times where you can get the pulling guards and you can get the screens, the draws. That stuff right there accelerates a running back especially my type."
Lindsay stopped short of saying he should receive a bell-cow's 20-plus carries per game but his dissatisfaction in Shurmur's scheme was apparent.
"I’m not sitting here saying that you’ve got to give me 25 carries," Lindsay continued to The FAN. "It’s about the type of carries you give a running back. It’s the times you give the carries to him, it’s the setup plays. That stuff elevates a running back and sometimes makes them look better than what they really are at times. Other times it showcases their talent. If you say, 'Let’s just run a play just to run it' and run a run-play, it doesn’t work and will never work like that.”
A major knock on Lindsay’s game has been his hands and pass-catching ability. In his three-year career, he has 12 drops, two of which occurred last season. However, the statistics don’t always tell the tale, especially if the context is absent.
In Shurmur’s offense, Lindsay was targeted a mere 14 times of which he caught seven passes for 28 yards and scored one touchdown. So, while many want to criticize Lindsay for his drops, the former Pro Bowler has never fumbled the ball in his NFL career and has proven himself to be an explosive playmaker in space.
“How can you say someone can’t catch a ball when you don’t give them enough balls to be thrown to?” Lindsay asked Ferguson and Lammey. “It doesn’t matter who it is, you’re going to drop balls, okay? That’s just the nature of the game. But the more you get thrown to the more confidence you get, and the more you think the QB trusts and believes in you.”
It'll be interesting to see if new GM George Paton envisions a seat at the Broncos' offensive table for Lindsay in 2021, especially in light of the dynamic back's dissatisfaction with Shurmur's usage of his talents and how much honing his receiving chops was emphasized last offseason, though it hardly resulted in his involvement on gameday.
Always honest, Lindsay voiced his frustration by saying, “I’ve worked my a** off to do the catching and stuff and I just felt like I didn’t get put in the situations to provide it or show it.”