DENVER — As General Manager George Paton pieces together his first roster, there remains an emphasis on versatility.
Wednesday, Paton agreed to terms with Minnesota running back Mike Boone on a two-year deal with $2.6 million guaranteed, per sources. The Broncos sought Boone for his special teams acumen and offensive potential. Boone will be given a chance to win the backup job behind starter Melvin Gordon, which could spell the end of Phillip Lindsay's career in Denver.
Boone, who turns 26 in July, has logged 200-plus special teams snaps with the Vikings in each of the past two seasons. The highlight came in Week 4 last October when he forced his first fumble and was named NFL Special Teams Player of the Week.
Boone grew into his role on coverage units and plays on all of them. The Broncos have struggled with special teams issues the past few years, lacking depth and experience, especially when injuries hit. Special teams coordinator Tom McMahon has relied primarily on backup defensive players.
However, Boone projects as more than a special teamer. A former standout at the University of Cincinnati, Boone has collected 379 yards on 71 attempts, a robust 5.3 yards per carry. He clearly lacks the resume of the former Pro Bowler Lindsay, who eclipsed 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, before collecting 534 last year as he dealt with foot and knee injuries.
Lindsay provides burst, energy and the ability to run between the tackles. But he was not used on special teams or in the passing game, the latter calling into question his fit in the Broncos offense. He and Gordon did not complement each other well. Lindsay excelled in Gordon's absence, and Gordon reciprocated. They were rarely on the field together, and Lindsay was not used in the passing game. After posting 70 receptions in his first two seasons, Lindsay caught seven passes in 11 games last season.
This week, the Broncos placed an original round tender on Lindsay, providing the Broncos the right of first refusal on any contract offer, but no draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. If all three are in the mix, the Broncos would be paying Gordon roughly $9 million, Boone $2.6 million guaranteed and Lindsay $2.133, original round tender value. So, if Lindsay receives interest -- Arizona could be a fit -- it's clearly possible the Broncos would let the former CU star leave.