Preparing to use their franchise tag on Justin Simmons for a second straight year, the Broncos do not have a high number of unrestricted free agents that would seemingly factor prominently into their big picture. (Though, defensive lineman Shelby Harris would qualify as such a player.)
But Denver does have a few intriguing restricted free agents, and teams are believed to be monitoring a couple of those players’ statuses. Should the Broncos fail to place at least a second-round tender on RFAs Alexander Johnson or Tim Patrick, interest in those contributors will develop quickly, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com notes.
An unusual RFA due to his age, the 29-year-old Johnson has worked as a three-down linebacker with Denver for most of Vic Fangio‘s two seasons. Pro Football Focus has graded Johnson as a top-25 off-ball ‘backer in each of those seasons. Johnson made 124 tackles last season, teaming with Josey Jewell in Denver’s sub-packages. Jewell is going into a contract year.
Despite the Broncos becoming the first team since the 2003 Cardinals to use first- and second-round picks on wideouts in the same draft — in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler — Patrick led the team with six receiving touchdowns and amassed a career-high 742 receiving yards. The Broncos leaned on their 6-foot-4 ex-UDFA in key spots after Courtland Sutton‘s season-ending injury. Sutton is going into a contract year in 2021.
Should the Broncos place second-round RFA tenders on Johnson and Patrick, they would have the right to match an offer sheet. A refusal to do so would mean a second-round pick coming Denver’s way. Round 2 RFA tenders are expected to come in around $3.3MM, per OverTheCap. The rarely used first-round tender is expected to cost around $4.8MM.
Interestingly, Phillip Lindsay‘s status may be murkier. The Broncos paused extension talks with their Pro Bowl running back last year, giving Melvin Gordon an $8MM-AAV contract instead. It is unclear if Lindsay will receive a second-round tender, per Legwold, or if the Broncos will give the two-time 1,000-yard rusher the right-of-first-refusal tender. The latter scenario would mean the team would receive no compensation if it refused to match a Lindsay offer sheet. A similar situation unfolded five years ago, when the Broncos gave C.J. Anderson the low-end tender but matched a Dolphins offer sheet. Gordon is under contract for 2021, but his DUI arrest and expected suspension leaves the six-year veteran’s $8.9MM cap number vulnerable.
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