Melvin Gordon’s holdout last season was all about signing a bigger contract as a free agent and he’s found a new home only two days after free agency opened for 2020. Gordon signed a two-year, $16 million deal with $13.5 million guaranteed. While it did not reach the heights he likely desired, he does become the highest-paid running back signing of this year. He tops the annual salaries of Jordan Howard ($5 million) and Todd Gurley ($6 million).
Notably, none of the running backs that signed new contracts this year received more than two years. The position saw bigger paydays with Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell, and David Johnson signing multi-year deals worth over $13 million each but the rapid decline of Todd Gurley and general low-shelf life of the position has once again devalued it.
Gordon heads to a Broncos team that ranked No. 15 in rushes (409), No. 20 in rush yards (1,662), and No. 23 in rushing touchdowns (11) for 2019. The signing is a little surprising given other team needs and the fact that both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman remain on the roster. Lindsay will be a free agent in 2021, so the move may be in advance of that. While Lindsay rushed for 1,011 yards last year, Gordon obviously becomes the primary back.
Both Lindsay and Freeman are capable receivers and combined for 78 receptions last year, but nearly split the duties in half with 35 and 43 catches, respectively. Both players are likely to participate as the third-down option though Gordon was used for around 50 catches per year with the Chargers.
Gordon’s stock should remain the same or improve slightly. Much depends on how much new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will rely on Gordon to the exclusion of both Lindsay and Freeman. Shurmur was the head coach for the Giants for the last two seasons and relied on Saquon Barkley almost exclusively. That bodes well for the 26-year old Gordon who remains in his prime.
Gordon has been one of the top scorers in the league when healthy and happy and totals 47 touchdowns in five years. He’s averaged 4.0 yards per run only once and that was in 2017 when he logged his only 1,000-yard season as a rusher (284 carries for 1,105). That was the only time that he lasted for all 16 games. Gordon missed two to four games in every other season.
It is a newer offense and the Broncos are going with second-year Drew Lock as the starter, barring any free agent or draft moves. The Broncos offensive line has been about average – just like their rushing attack. Gordon has two years to prove himself and he should see at least as much work as he did as a Charger. That makes him top-ten material in fantasy drafts.
The signing should all but eliminate Freeman from expectations of becoming a larger factor. Lindsay steps back into a secondary role and there is the reality that Gordon almost always misses a couple of games. But Freeman is the biggest loser in this move.