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Free agent profile: Running back Melvin Gordon

Could the former Charger turn in the powder blues for the orange and blue?

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Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos rushing attack behind the lightning bolt we call Phillip Lindsay has been lacking. We all had high hope for the former third-round pick, running back, Royce Freeman, but he has been disappointing. He has only averaged 3.9 yards per carry through three seasons and has never lived up to the expectations we all had for him. I think an upgrade there is needed and would help the offense take that next step. A player who I think can help the Broncos offense take that next step is running back, Melvin Gordon.

A one-two punch in Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon would give the Broncos one of the better rushing attacks in the league and take some of the pressure off quarterback Drew Lock. Keep in mind, Lock only has 5 starts under his belt so expecting him to carry the entire offense on his shoulders right away is a bit naive in my opinion. A strong rushing attack would give Lock and the Broncos just that.

Player profile

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 215 pounds

Age: 26 years old

Experience: 5 seasons

Melvin Gordon played his college ball at Wisconsin and played a total of four seasons there for them. During his four-seasons at Wisconsin, Gordon totaled 4,915 yards rushing, 45 rushing touchdowns, and a 7.8 yards per carry. This college career by Gordon helped him become a first-round pick for the then San Diego Chargers back in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Gordon has continued his successful play in the NFL as he has become one of the better running backs in the NFL during his career thus far. During his five-year career in the NFL and with the Chargers, Gordon has totaled 4,240 yards rushing and 36 rushing touchdowns. He has also hauled in 224 receptions for 1,873 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Gordon was coming off a career-year in 2018 where he totaled 5.1 yards per carry and 14 total touchdowns. However, in 2019 he had a bit of a down year as he held out for the first four games of the Chargers season but still totaled 9 touchdowns in 12 games.

Why it makes sense

It is clear that Broncos General Manager John Elway wants the Broncos offense to improve and good enough to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs offense whom are in their division. An explosive wide receiver has been the popular mocked pick to the Broncos as of now and they already have Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, and Phillip LIndsay on the roster. So adding a powerful and explosive back like Gordon who can also help out in the passing game would give this offense a well-rounded look.

I touched on this earlier, but Royce Freeman has been a bit of a disappointment. He fills the role of the powerful complement to Lindsay but he has been very average at best for them during his first two seasons in the league. This past season for the Broncos he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry for them which isn’t very good.

Running back Melvin Gordon was ranked as the 32nd best free agent available this winter according to Pro Football Focus.

Nobody quite exemplifies the current understanding of running backs being dependent on their environment — at least long term — than Melvin Gordon. The Chargers star held out at the start of the 2019 season, looking for a big payday off the back of his best-graded season perhaps with the understanding that replicating that 2018 season was unlikely given the blocking in front of him. So it proved, as Gordon averaged only 3.8 yards per rush attempt, 2.5 of which came after contact, on his way to a 66.0 overall PFF grade. Gordon has shown he can be a big-time player with some help around him, but so have a lot of backs.

Plus, keeping Gordon inside the AFC West against defenses he already knows and a chance to seek revenge against the Chargers twice a year is always nice too.

Why it doesn’t make sense

Well, I spent this article hating on Royce Freeman for only averaging 3.8 yards per carry this past year and 3.9 yards during his career, but Gordon’s numbers are not much better. He only averaged 3.8 yards per carry himself this year behind a bad Chargers offensive line and a declining Phillip Rivers. His career average sits at 4.0 yards per carry and he has only topped 4.0 yards per carry once in his career which was in 2018 when he had 5.1 yards per carry.

So would we be getting the upgrade that I said we would be getting? The eye test tells me, yes but the numbers and stats tell me not really.

Also, the money and contract he is seeking figures to be a bit high. He held out the first four games of the season for a reason so I doubt he’s seeking a friendly deal on the open market. From his standpoint, this is his only chance to get a big contract during his career(turns 27 soon) so I doubt he will be keen on taking much less on the open market (nor should he really) to land in a certain spot.

Finally, his age and wear and tear need to be mentioned. He’ll turn 27 in April which means that dreaded 30-year-old age wall is coming soon. Plus, he has already had 1,059 touches in the NFL(not even factoring in his college workload as well) so you have to be concerned about that as well.

Final Thoughts

I think running back is a low-key need for the Broncos, especially with them hiring offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to coach and scheme up this team in 2020.

Now, this isn’t a knock on Phillip Lindsay who just surpassed 1,000 yards once again this past year. It’s more of a trying to improve his complement to Lindsay going forward. That compliment these past two years have been Royce Freeman but as I have stated multiple times throughout this piece, he has been a bit of a disappointment. I think Melvin Gordon would prove to be a better compliment moving forward.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

I know the argument will be made that their similar stats really do not point to an actual improvement, and it is a valid point. However, I think Gordon is more proven and more talented back who can improve the Broncos rushing attack. He has shown he can be a weapon in the passing game which is something you need to do in a Pat Shurmur offense as a running back. He has also proven to be a solid goal-line back by totaling at least 8 rushing touchdowns these past four seasons. He also has a history of sharing reps with a smaller/more explosive back so a timeshare wouldn’t, well shouldn’t be an issue for him.

The likely price tag however, is what will likely make this potential signing unlikely. Gordon held out for a reason and is looking for a nice payday. The Broncos have other needs they need to spend their money on so I doubt a back like Gordon is one they will spend that sort of money on. If the price tag is reasonable? Maybe, but I doubt it in this case.

I running back will be added, especially with Devontae Booker heading to free agency. Freeman’s lack of production and Lindsay’s now two wrist surgeries should make the Broncos concerned moving forward.

Will that back be Melvin Gordon? We shall see.


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