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Should the Broncos Pay or Pass in 2020 – Running back Theo Riddick?

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The Broncos have a lot of interesting decisions to make this offseason in regards to free agency. Before they decide on which ones to target from other teams, Denver must first look at its own players who are set to hit the open market.

Heading into the offseason, the Broncos have 14 players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2020. At the end-of-season press conference, Broncos general manager John Elway said the Broncos are going to wait a month before they start evaluating their own players.

“That gives us more time to do it the right way. Rather than doing it on a personal side, because the coaches get connected with (players). I think you get a better objective view when you get away and you’re able to go back and look at it individually,” Elway said.

In the meantime, let’s take a tour through the list of players the Broncos need to make a decision about. During the next few weeks, I’ll take an in-depth look at Denver’s pending free agents, answering a simple question: Should the Broncos pay to keep them or take a pass, letting them head into free agency.

Next up…

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THEO RIDDICK
Running Back

The Lions selected running back Theo Riddick out of Notre Dame in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. During his college career with the Fighting Irish, Riddick was known as a good all-purpose player. Some in the scouting community felt that Riddick might transition to slot receiver in the pros because of his 120 receptions in four years of playing college ball.

Riddick was seen as a value pick late in the draft, a player who could at least contribute on special teams and as a change-of-pace back. While he wasn’t great working in tight spaces as a runner, Riddick was a dangerous player in space.

During his time with the Lions (2013-18) Riddick was used mostly as a receiver out of the backfield and as a slot receiver. He didn’t do much as a runner with the Lions, but he was regularly featured in the passing attack, roughly getting around 50 catches per year. Riddick even had a career-high 80 catches for the Lions in the 2015 season.

In his final season with the Lions, Riddick was banged up a little bit and limited to just 14 games. He didn’t look like his old self and the Lions let him go.

It took only about four days for Riddick to find a new home, this time with the Broncos. Like his time in Detroit, Denver had plans to use Riddick as a change-of-pace back and receiver out of the backfield. In fact, Riddick was easily the best receiving back on the roster in training camp.

However, a shoulder injury cut his season short before it even got started and he was put on Injured Reserve coming out of the preseason. Since he was only signed to a one-year deal, Riddick is now set to be an unrestricted free agent.

Should the Broncos pay or pass? Let’s take a look.

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Positives

Riddick has “RB” next to his name, but he’s really a slot receiver who plays running back. He can run routes like a receiver and he has strong hands to snare passes quickly and fluidly. Riddick knows how to find the soft spot in a zone and is a threat after the catch.

The veteran doesn’t waste a lot of motion with the ball in his hands. He understands angles and will fight hard to wring out every yard on a reception.

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Negatives

Riddick just can’t seem to stay healthy and his best days are clearly behind him. He’s also just a very limited player in terms of what he can do on the football field.

Yes, Riddick is a fantastic receiver, but it’s a “tell” for the defense every time he’s on the field because he’s not much of a runner and shouldn’t get many carries from the backfield. Instead, defenses can just declare him as a receiver and know that a pass is likely coming.

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The Market

Riddick isn’t going to get a deal that breaks the bank. In fact, his price tag could be quite affordable and he will most likely get a one-year contract again.

Last year with the Broncos, Riddick signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract and that’s roughly what he would be looking at for the 2020 season. That number would rank around No. 25 in the league for average annual salary. In fact, Redskins veteran running back Adrian Peterson (who can carry a much larger workload than Riddick) is set to make $2.5 million in this upcoming season.

There’s a small chance that Riddick might not even get to that number, but that’s the ballpark of where his contract is going to be. Signing Riddick is not going to take a large commitment from any team that is interested in him.

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The Verdict

It would have been nice to get Riddick a little earlier in his career. When he was first in the league for a couple of seasons, Riddick was a more dangerous player even though he was limited in what he can do on the field.

The Broncos need to pass on Riddick.

New offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur needs a quality receiving back – and that could be Riddick – but I would rather see if starter Phillip Lindsay improves his receiving ability this offseason and is able to take on an even larger role.