Denver Broncos hold leverage with possible Phillip Lindsay extension

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DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 22: Phillip Lindsay #30 of the Denver Broncos carries the ball against the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on December 22, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos hold all of the leverage in a possible extension of running back Phillip Lindsay, who is a restricted free agent in 2021.

The Denver Broncos just signed free agent running back Melvin Gordon for two years, $16 million with $13.5 million guaranteed.

Their attention will, at some point, turn to extending the contract of Phillip Lindsay, something John Elway mentioned at the end of the 2019 regular season and then again at the 2020 Scouting Combine.

The timeline for a possible extension for Lindsay could come before or after the 2020 NFL Draft, but it will almost certainly come before the start of the 2020 regular season.

There are important reasons for that from the Broncos' perspective as well as from Lindsay's perspective, but we have to make something clear: The Broncos hold all of the leverage here.

Lindsay has been tremendous in his first two seasons in the NFL with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and a Pro Bowl nod as an undrafted rookie, which is literally unprecedented.

With that being said, Lindsay enters the third and final year of his contract with the Broncos scheduled to make $755,000. He will be a restricted free agent for the Broncos next offseason, and even a second-round tender will only cost Denver around $3.5 million.

That essentially means that the Broncos have the leverage of keeping Lindsay under contract for the next two years as a measly $4.25 million, chump change for the way he's produced for the team.

The Broncos don't have to low-ball Lindsay, but they also don't necessarily have to make him a top-10 highest paid back in the league, either.

Austin Ekeler recently signed a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Chargers worth $24.5 million and $15 million in total guaranteed money. Although Ekeler has not been utilized the same way Lindsay has (Ekeler has been a much more productive receiver while Lindsay has been more productive as a rusher), many felt like Ekeler's deal could be a good baseline for the Broncos and Lindsay.

It still might, but Lindsay has proven more over his first two years in the NFL than Ekeler has, which in this case, is almost working to his disadvantage. By getting ahead of things, the Broncos can pitch Lindsay an immediate raise via signing bonus with an extension on top of it for 2-3 years.

The Broncos could offer Lindsay a two-year extension worth $14 million in total money including a $6 million signing bonus this year, spreading out base salaries of an average of $4 million between 2021 and 2022.

That would mean Lindsay would make $10 million between 2020-21 as opposed to $4.25 million, and that could be hard for him to pass up, especially with a signing bonus up front.

Either way, the Broncos have the leverage of dictating their next contract to Lindsay or forcing him to wait out his four accrued seasons before he can hit unrestricted free agency in 2022.

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The Broncos want to do right by Lindsay for his performance but even with the optics of giving him a contract extension after two seasons making Denver look like the good guys, it could end up being a savvy business play more than anything.