The Denver Broncos found their diamond in the rough at the running back position by signing undrafted free agent Phillip Lindsay in 2018. Lindsay has proven to be one of the top rushers in the game today, and the Broncos get to pay him the kind of humble salary that front offices dream of.
Now, Lindsay is set to cash in at the conclusion of the 2020 season when his rookie deal is up. Even though the Broncos signed former Los Angeles Charger Melvin Gordon to a two-year, $16 million deal, general manager John Elway hinted Tuesay did hint that he would consider re-signing Lindsay to a contract extension with the goal of creating a one-two punch at running back in the years to come.
But given the price Lindsay would surely demand on a new deal, Elway needs to flat-out refuse to throw anything resembling a fat deal at Lindsay, as cynical as that sounds.
If Elway were to go through and give Lindsay the bag, he obviously hasn't paid attention to the happenings in the NFL the past couple of years. Paying running backs big money is a mistake in almost every single case. But considering his quarterback decisions throughout his tenure as an executive, we wouldn't doubt that Elway might ignore this essential advice.
In today's NFL, the worst thing you can do is give a running back a long-term deal with plenty of guaranteed cash. Considering the position is so physically demanding, the career lifespan of an NFL rusher is severely limited, and a decline often comes once a guy is locked into a gaudy extension, putting teams into serious jams.
Look no further than Todd Gurley. Through his first three seasons in the league, he looked like the second coming of Eric Dickerson. Enamored of his play, the Los Angeles Rams rewarded the NFL Offensive Player of the Year with a four-year, $60 million contract in 2018. Shortly after signing the deal, however, Gurley was hampered with knee issues brought on by arthritis, and just two years later, the Rams outright released him.
That's not to say that Lindsay won't have a long, successful career; it's just that history isn't on his side. The best strategy for an intelligent team is to let an impending free agent running back hit the open market and select his replacement in the NFL Draft.
Unless Lindsay is open to a team-friendly deal, Elway and the Broncos should explore alternate options before they enter running back hell.