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Free Agent profile: Running back Melvin Gordon

Should the Denver Broncos re-sign their former RB1?

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
Would Gordon be a prudent commitment?
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency fast approaching the Denver Broncos have reportedly met with Melvin Gordon about a new contract. General manager George Paton said that he would like the 28-year-old running back to return to the team in 2022, and told the Broncos’ official site that he’s quite fond of the veteran back.

“I think Melvin had a heck of a year. When those two guys are going, they’re hard to stop. Obviously, both had some fumbles and we need to clean that up, but in terms of physical runners, I thought they were two of the better runners — combos — in the league. Both are good in protection, both can catch the ball. So I just like the way both of them go about their work. They work hard, they love ball. Melvin’s infectious. I love the smile. Javonte, he’s pretty quiet, but I just love the way those guys work. I think they’re really talented. And sure, again, the coaches need to evaluate it, but I like Melvin a lot.”

Is a return prudent?

Player Profile

Height: 6-1
Weight: 215 pounds
Age: 28 years old
Experience: 7 seasons

Why it makes sense

It’s a good idea to roster multiple backs who are capable three down contributors to the offense. The Broncos currently have two in Javonte Williams and Mike Boone, though both dealt with injuries in 2021 and Boone spent time on Injured Reserve because of a quad injury. A 17-game schedule is a battle of attrition at every position, but none take the beating running backs do and so it’s wise to plan for wear and tear impacting availability over a long campaign.

A former first round pick by the Chargers, Melvin Gordon’s consistently shown throughout his career that he’s a capable starting back with the vision, contact balance, and short area quickness to grind out tough yards. He has the play strength, savvy, and technique to be a solid pass protector on third downs, and serves as a reliable outlet receiver for check down passes with his soft hands. Gordon’s a solid fit in Nathaniel Hackett’s zone/duo run game and he’s at his best on inside zone, which the Broncos will heavily feature in their new offense.

Why it doesn’t make sense

NFL teams have shown time and again (and again, and again, and again...) that they can find ball carriers throughout the NFL draft. On top of that, a running back’s individual rushing production is extremely reliant on their supporting cast and the situations they run in. When a team has a back on a rookie deal there’s more resources to surround him with the help necessary to produce, and it’s easier to move on if injuries or wear and tear become a significant concern.

Cost, role, and the grind of Father time combine to make Gordon riskier than he appears at first glance. Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger predicts the veteran will sign a deal in the $6 million average per year ballpark in free agency, an APY that’d make Gordon one of the 15 highest paid backs in the league. A deal like that would be extremely rich considering Williams looks like he’ll see his backfield duties expand going forward. Gordon’s also missed time in every season he’s played in the NFL outside of 2017, and he’s also passed the 1,500 carry total: PFF’s Tej Seth has found backs typically fall off once they’ve passed that mark.

Final Thoughts

I’ll fully admit that I believe John Elway’s decision to sign Melvin Gordon to a $16 million contract was a poor allocation of resources and resigning the veteran risks more of the same. If the Broncos find themselves in a situation where cap room is at a premium following a trade for a veteran quarterback, there’s simply better ways to build the roster than giving a second string back a big money deal.


Should the Broncos re-sign Melvin Gordon?

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