To kick this year’s position review series off, we’re looking at the Broncos’ running backs.

In this series we’ll analyze how each of the players at running back performed in 2020, from Phillip Lindsay to LeVante Bellamy, and then we’ll take a look at what that means for Denver’s off-season plans.

Phillip Lindsay

2020 has been the worst season of Phillip Lindsay’s young career so far. On 118 carries, he scored just one touchdown and barely eclipsed 500 yards, making it the first season he didn’t break the 1,000-yard mark.

The addition of Melvin Gordon certainly took a bite of Lindsay’s workload, but injuries limited his production more than anything. He missed five games, the most he’s missed in a single-season, and ended the year on injured reserve.

When he was at his best though, he was clearly better than Gordon and he managed to be the offensive engine for the Broncos. Against the Patriots, Dolphins and in the first game against the Chiefs, Lindsay showed how important he was to success on that side of the ball.

Lindsay is a restricted free agent this off-season which will make it fairly easy to bring him back with a tender. George Paton might not prioritize re-signing a running back to a long-term deal, but he should definitely make an effort to bring Lindsay back as a restricted free agent.

Melvin Gordon

Melvin Gordon’s 2020 season was a much more mixed bag than Lindsay’s.

On the negative side, Gordon was arrested for a DUI in downtown Denver and will likely be suspended for the first three games of the 2021 season as a result. He also had four incredibly frustrating fumbles. His first one came against the Titans in Week 1 and arguably lost the Broncos the game. His second two came in the first matchup with Kansas City, and featured a flea flicker pitch that went several yards over Drew Lock’s head. His final fumble came at the one-yard line of the Miami Dolphins and nearly cost Denver the game.

On the bright side, he was far more productive and consistent on the whole than Lindsay was this season. He also provided a lot more in the passing game than Lindsay has throughout his career. Despite Lindsay placing an emphasis on improving his role in the passing game, and seeming to do just that at training camp and in practice, his production through the air declined by 80 percent.

That decline has much more to do with how strong Gordon was as a pass-protector and as receiver than to do with Lindsay.

Based on Gordon’s contract and his on-field performance, it would be surprising if Denver chose to part ways this off-season. However, he’ll be due for a new deal following 2021, and it seems doubtful Denver would look to keep him around for the long-term.

Royce Freeman

Much like Lindsay, Royce Freeman saw a massive dip in production in 2020 as he became the team’s secondary receiving back and tertiary ball-carrier.

Despite that incredibly limited role, Freeman played well. He didn’t get many opportunities but he made the most of them, gaining nearly five yards per carry, easily the best mark of his career. From an efficiency stand point, it was the best season of his career as he gained more first downs and yardage per snap and carry than he had at any other point of his career.

It’s easy to see Freeman settling into, and thriving in this role as a rotational or supplementary back. However, his contract expires after the 2021 season, and his skillset can be easily replaced by a late-round draft pick.

LeVante Bellamy

LeVante Bellamy barely saw the field as an undrafted rookie, but was a pleasant surprise when he was utilized.

He showed solid burst and should remain around as either a practice squad player or as a running back on the back end of the depth chart. He could be a backup running back for the Broncos moving forward, as he is the only one of Denver’s running backs the team will have control over in 2022.

Where does that leave us?

The Broncos situation at running back is strong now, but they could quickly find themselves in desperation next off-season.

All four of the running backs currently on the roster have contracts expiring after 2021 (though Bellamy is an exclusive-rights free agent), and it’s hard to see the team bringing back either Gordon or Freeman. Lindsay could stick around after 2021, but he could also be gone as soon as this off-season considering he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent.

As a result, the Broncos should set up some contingency plans in case they suffer a mass exodus at the position next year. This year’s running back class is remarkably strong both in the veteran market — which features players like Aaron Jones, Kenyan Drake, and Gus Edwards — and the rookie market, which means the Broncos could land a talented running back later in the draft or for a cheaper contract than you would expect.