When people think of "kicking and screaming," C.J. Anderson is the face.
He brings the "started from the bottom" attitude that made Rod Smith so successful. It's a mindset that is so valuable to a team; especially one that aspires to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Those are the players teams must keep. And when you sign them as college free agents? It's even more imperative they stay with your organization.
There was speculation Elway would let Anderson go to the Miami Dolphins when he signed their offer sheet last week. Since Elway slapped the low tender on Anderson, it seemed a foregone conclusion Denver would lose another player. If Elway wanted to keep the running back, why not put the second-round tender and save money? Or so the thought went.
Elway says he doesn't wish he'd put the 2nd-round tender about him. "We've got him for four years," he said.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) March 15, 2016
Still, Elway would have had to sign Anderson to a long-term deal even if the second-round tender had been given. So Elway let the market set his value and kept him because he knows what Anderson means to the team.
It's another example of how it's impossible to predict Elway's moves. So it's better to just let him do his thing.
He must have valued Anderson's heart and importance to the locker room over his inability to take the job. What is clear is that Anderson's performance better live up to this contract. With more money comes higher expectations.
Here's the breakdown of Anderson's new contract:
2016: $5.25 million signing bonus due March 31 (guaranteed). $675,000 (guaranteed), $100,000 workout bonus. Total: $6 million
2017: $2.9 million ($1.7 million guaranteed). $100,000 workout bonus. Total: $3 million
2018: $4.5 million (not guaranteed)
2019: $4.5 million (not guaranteed)
Elway: "Continuity is important ... he's a guy that we like to have in the locker room & will accept the elevation in responsibilities."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) March 15, 2016
At least this will force fans who are freaking out over player departures to step back from the cliff. Had Anderson left, it may have been the final push.
At the very least, it shows that Elway was a man of his word when he said he aimed to keep players who wanted to be Broncos.
This move also keeps a popular member of the team in the community who does great things. That should be valued as well.
It also allows Anderson to continue his development in Denver, and, live up to this contract that pays him like a top 10 running back. With another year in Gary Kubiak's system, he should take off. Anderson now has the motivation and support to do just that.
The first piece to the Broncos' running game puzzle is in place.
Now Elway must continue the work to improve the offensive line. Whether that means a restructure of Ryan Clady, his release and addition of another veteran, or through the draft, the line has to play better. That will help any back.
One other aspect that would help Anderson is a fullback. That wasn't possible last season because the offense had so many issues, but it deserves a look. Kubiak's offense is one of the few where that position plays a key, high-impact role.
Some will question Elway and his thought process on Anderson.
They will wonder why he didn't use the second-round tender. Again, it wouldn't have been a long-term solution to this problem. So by the process of elimination, that means Elway wanted to keep him and let the market set his value.
Broncos RB @cjandersonb22 - only NFL RB (joins Beckham & A.Brown among all players) w/2100+yds & 17+TDs in 2nd half of last two seasons.— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) March 15, 2016
The question to ask: Is Anderson worth it?
For a running back who has yet to put forth a complete season, it's a fair one to ask.
No doubt he has performed well in the second half of the last two seasons and had a great playoff performance, but is that worth close to $10 million guaranteed?
Not to mention there are questions about his health and fitness levels. If Anderson were to hit the gym with Derek Wolfe, that would take care of that.
We will get those answers in the months to come.
In the meantime, Elway proves he's a man of his word and keeps the face of "kicking and screaming" with the Broncos.