Before the Broncos decided on a Melvin Gordon–Phillip Lindsay backfield, they had another veteran standout on their radar. Denver was interested in trading for David Johnson, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic reports (subscription required).
The Broncos expressed interest in the former Cardinals All-Pro at the Combine but did not wish to meet Arizona’s asking price, Jhabvala adds. Johnson is now a member of the Texans, set to collect his full $10.2MM base salary despite Duke Johnson also on tap to earn $3.6MM in 2020. While the latter’s salary is non-guaranteed, Houston’s backfield has become quite expensive. After two years of using rookie-contract running backs, Denver’s has as well.
John Elway and Vic Fangio came to an agreement on needing a better 1-2 punch in the team’s backfield compared to what it possessed in its Lindsay-Royce Freeman setup of the past two years, Fangio said. New OC hire Pat Shurmur sought a “bellcow” back, per Jhabvala. Given that David Johnson was on the radar, the Broncos were undeterred by a large salary in their backfield.
This has created a situation in which Gordon is on track to displace Lindsay as the Broncos’ top running back. Gordon is also attached to a two-year, $16MM contract. Lindsay will make $750K in 2020. Despite becoming the first UDFA to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Lindsay denied he will seek a trade or prioritize a new deal. Elway confirmed Tuesday a new Lindsay agreement is not out of the question, but the 10th-year GM appeared to be more optimistic on this front at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
“I’ve talked to Phillip’s agent and we’ll see what happens and what we can do later on,” Elway said. “That’s not a guarantee either way, but we’ll see what we can do later on.”
Lindsay’s agent, Mike McCartney, said (via Jhabvala) he hopes the Broncos will “do right by” his client after he “exceeded expectations.” No Lindsay extension discussions have occurred, however, Jhabvala adds. Lindsay cannot become an unrestricted free agent until 2022; he will be an RFA next March.