Melvin Gordon did exactly what the Denver Broncos asked of him in 2021. With the team breaking in rookie running back Javonte Williams, Gordon was the veteran presence that allowed the prized rookie to gradually settle into the role of primary ball-carrier. And by the end of the season, it was clear Williams was ready to become the unquestioned lead back in 2022.
That was perfect timing for Gordon, who finished the second year of his two-year contract with the Broncos in 2021, and can now enter free agency on a high note, having put his acrimonious holdout with the Los Angeles Chargers two years ago behind him.
Despite his split duties with Williams, Gordon had a solid season in 2021, rushing for 918 yards and eight touchdowns, while adding 28 receptions and two receiving scores. He will be among the top running backs available in free agency, beginning next month. Here are four possible landing spots for the veteran back:
The Cardinals found success in 2021 with a tandem of Chase Edmonds and James Conner alternating at different times as the lead runner and top backfield receiver for Kyler Murray. But now both backs are free agents, and even if only one should move on to a new team, Gordon could be the perfect back to serve as the replacement.
As was the case in Denver this past season, Gordon meshed well with Williams in a dual-threat backfield. Should both Edmonds and Conner leave, Gordon should have enough left in the tank to serve as the primary back and safety valve for Murray.
Kansas City Chiefs
Another situation where the change-of-pace position could be open with Darrell Williams testing free agency. But the true value to the Chiefs would be Gordon’s ability to assume the every-down role should Clyde Edwards-Helaire continue to struggle to stay healthy.
In a perfect world, it would be Gordon who would serve as the early-down back, while Edwards-Helaire serves more of a third-down, passing role that he tends to excel in.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If Leonard Fournette leaves the Buccaneers as a free agent, a golden opportunity could be waiting for Gordon in Tampa. With Tom Brady gone and the receiving corps uncertain because of their own possible free-agent defections – not to mention losses on the offensive line, there could be a huge opportunity for Gordon to not just serve as the lead back, but as the focal point of an offense in transition.
Depending on the kind of deal Gordon signs in Tampa, a one-year audition for the rest of the league as a lead back could result in a massive payday come 2023.
New Orleans Saints
Another team in search of a change-of-pace back to complement its star in the lead role, Gordon could assume the role played at different points in the past five years by Mark Ingram Jr. as the complement to Alvin Kamara.
The Saints might want a No. 2 back that serves as something of a 1-A to Kamara’s leading role, keeping their All-Pro runner and pass-catcher as fresh as possible over the new 18-week season.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference