Broncos: Predictions for team’s restricted free agents in 2021

Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay -- Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay -- Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
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Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos running back #30 Phillip Lindsay. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

There is no question about the fact that the Denver Broncos have some big free agent decisions on in-house players to be made in the coming weeks.

The biggest name with an expired contract in Denver right now is safety Justin Simmons, and new general manager George Paton has assured fans that he’s not going to let his good, young players get out of town.

At this point, the Broncos’ front office is undoubtedly crunching numbers and trying to figure out how to field the best possible team in 2021 and beyond. Part of that equation will include considering re-signing some of the team’s key unrestricted free agents, but the Broncos will obviously have to make big decisions on restricted free agents as well.

For those not familiar with the difference between unrestricted and restricted free agents, restricted free agents are defined by the NFL as follows:

"Restricted free agent (RFA): A player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers (“tenders”) that come with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation. via NFL free agency glossary"

Those “tenders” have varying levels of price and draft pick compensation.

1st round tender: One year, $4.641 million
2nd round tender: One year, $3.259 million
Original round tender: One year, $2.133 million
First right of refusal tender: One year, $2.133 million

If the Broncos give one of their restricted free agents a first-round tender and that player signs an offer sheet with another team, the Broncos have the ability to match or receive a first-round pick in return, and so forth down the list.

Let’s take a look at the Broncos’ RFAs for the 2021 offseason and try to predict what the team will do with each guy.

Denver Broncos 2021 restricted free agent predictions

1. Phillip Lindsay, RB (2021 season age: 27)

Phillip Lindsay is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher for the Denver Broncos (2018-19) who made history by making the Pro Bowl as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2018.

Lindsay has consistently been one of the Broncos’ best offensive players and one of their most consistent, as well, but he is not without flaw.

Lindsay has struggled to establish himself as a consistent threat in the passing game and he’s almost always taken off the field for pass protection. In addition to the on-field issues, Lindsay has had injuries in each of his first three NFL seasons.

There was talk last offseason that the Broncos could reward Lindsay for his first two seasons of excellent play, but those talks never went anywhere.

Still, Lindsay’s value to the team is undeniable. The Broncos should not have to think long about giving Lindsay the second-round tender, and that figure would put him in the top 25 of the NFL in single-year or average annual value on a contract.

Lindsay could ask the team for a trade in the 2021 offseason if he’s not happy with his role in the Pat Shurmur offense, or the Broncos could decide he’s not the best fit for the offense moving forward and give him the original-round tender and dare another team to sign him to a long-term deal to save a million bucks.

Either way, the smart move for the Broncos is the second-round tender. However, this could be a messier situation than any in Broncos Country want it to be.

Prediction: 2nd-round tender