Denver Broncos 2021 offseason: Running back position preview

Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay -- Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay -- Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Heading into the 2020 season, the running back position appeared to be one of the great positions of strength on the Denver Broncos‘ roster.

Heading into 2021? Not quite so much.

The Broncos entered 2020 with the presumed 1-2 punch of Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay, two former Pro Bowl running backs who have obviously complementary if not bordering on conflicting skill sets.

Gordon is a big, bruising back who can play on all three downs effectively. Lindsay is a smaller back with explosive, home run type speed.

Unfortunately, things weren’t as peachy with Gordon and Lindsay as the Denver Broncos had hoped they could be. Lindsay was injured in the first game of the season and struggled throughout the year to stay healthy. Gordon missed one game due to illness, but was also popped for a DUI and struggled early in the season with fumbles.

was no rhythm between these two backs and their usage in Pat Shurmur’s offense early on, leading to questions about whether or not the Broncos might need to just overhaul the position as early as the 2021 offseason.

Denver Broncos running backs under contract for 2021

  • Melvin Gordon (age: 28 in April)
  • Royce Freeman (age: 25)
  • Levante Bellamy (age: 24)
  • Damarea Crockett — Futures contract (age: 23)

Denver Broncos free agent running backs for 2021

Denver Broncos 2021 offseason preview: Running Back

Melvin Gordon

The former two-time Pro Bowl running back and first-round draft choice emerged in 2020 as the clear and obvious RB1 for the Denver Broncos.

Despite this fact, Gordon struggled with fumbles early in the season and faces a possible three-game suspension after a DUI last year.

Not great.

Gordon eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage and had 10 touchdowns in his first year in Denver. Over the last two seasons, he has 19 touchdowns but also eight fumbles. Those eight fumbles are the difference between winning and losing in some cases.

It’s not out of the realm of reason to say that Gordon could be replaced in 2021 but he will more likely be back in Denver as the RB1, even if it is just for 13 or 14 games.

Phillip Lindsay

A restricted free agent, the Broncos slapping Lindsay with a second-round tender should be a no-brainer.

With that being said, Lindsay was not happy with his role in 2020 and there is a chance he could ask for a number of things in the 2021 offseason. He could ask for an expanded role, he could ask for a long-term contract, or he could ask for a trade if he doesn’t get those things.

Lindsay has missed time in each of his first three NFL seasons due to injury. That has to be taken into consideration. He has also not emerged as a receiving threat, though he’s adamant that if he were to get more chances there, he could excel. I, for one, agree.

Hopefully, the Broncos can work something out with Lindsay. He is a playmaker and a catalyst for the offense when he is at full speed.

Royce Freeman

The former third-round pick out of Oregon looked like he was going to be an absolute stud during his rookie training camp and preseason.

Maybe he should switch back to jersey no. 37.

Freeman had some explosive plays before suffering an ankle injury in his rookie year, and he just hasn’t been able to regain his footing since then. He did catch a bunch of passes in 2019, so we know he has value on third down.

At this point, it’s just hard to know if Freeman can regain his early 2018 form. That would be great for the Broncos as well as for Freeman, who is in a contract year in 2021.

The Rest

Levante Bellamy is an exciting 2020 undrafted player who should get another real shot at cracking the Denver Broncos’ roster in 2021. He missed some time due to injury in 2020, but Bellamy has explosive speed and can contribute on special teams.

The Broncos also signed one of Drew Lock’s former Missouri teammates Damarea Crockett to the practice squad last year, and he was impressive enough to get a reserve/future deal from the team.


Depending on how the rest of the 2021 free agent period goes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Broncos use a day two selection at the running back position. That might feel like a bit of a luxury at this point, but what if the team decides to trade or let go of Phillip Lindsay?

Melvin Gordon’s possible suspension has to be accounted for, and if he is going to miss three games, will the Broncos try to void the guarantees in his contract and just cut him?

At least by 2022, this position group would be a significant need for Denver to address. They might look for their starter or RB2 of the future this offseason.