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Denver Broncos' 2020 NFL free-agent signings: Melvin Gordon adds receiving threat out of backfield

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Broncos spend big money on Gordon (0:45)

Jeff Legwold says Denver is making moves in free agency, but spending the bulk of their money acquiring Melvin Gordon. (0:45)

NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2020 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from Bill Barnwell. The new league year began Wednesday, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2020 NFL draft begins April 23.

Here's a breakdown of every 2020 NFL free-agent signing by the Denver Broncos, and how each will impact the upcoming season:


Melvin Gordon, running back

Gordon has agreed to a two-year, $16 million deal that includes $13.5 in guarantees, a source confirmed to ESPN Friday.

What it means: Just after he was hired earlier this year, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said he wanted running backs who could contribute rushing and receiving yards. Gordon fits the bill with four consecutive years with at least 41 receptions. Gordon also finds the end zone plenty, with 36 rushing touchdowns and 11 receiving touchdowns over four seasons. Add it up and he likely eats up some passing down snaps from Phillip Lindsay, who has back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but has had limited impact as a receiver out of the backfield with 35 catches in each of his two seasons and one career receiving touchdown.

What's the risk: The risk is $16 million, which won't break the Broncos' bank. But it's a lot of salary cap if Gordon doesn't stay healthy and contribute each week. He has played 16 games in a season just once in his career, which also happened to be his only 1,000-yard rushing season (in 2017). While with the Chargers, Gordon was the primary option in the backfield as Austin Ekeler did the bulk of the work in passing situations. With the Broncos, Lindsay will likely get more early-down work as a runner with Gordon used more as a receiver. The Broncos have said they want to rework Lindsay's deal, but with Gordon's arrival, they may want to reaffirm those intentions.


Graham Glasgow, guard

The Broncos and Glasgow, a former Detroit Lions offensive guard, have agreed to a four-year deal, $44 million deal with $26 million guaranteed.

What it means: The Broncos liked Glasgow's versatility -- he started games at left guard, right guard and center during his time with the Lions -- and they certainly had needs in the interior of the offensive line. The team did not pick up the contract option for Ron Leary, who started 12 games at right guard last season, and center Connor McGovern is an unrestricted free agent. The Broncos consider Dalton Risner -- a second-round pick in the 2019 draft -- a fixture at one guard. They needed starters at the other guard spot, as well as at center. Glasgow could play either spot, but is more likely to get the first look at guard, at least until they see what unfolds in the draft and the remainder of free agency.

What's the risk: Lower than with other recent offensive line signings by the Broncos. Glasgow is a young player -- he won't turn 28 until August -- who has been durable during his first four seasons in the league. He played every offensive snap for the Lions in both 2017 and 2018 and has missed just two games during his four-year career. He was platooned a bit with the Lions this past season and the Broncos will expect far more than that from a player with a $44 million deal. Menelik Watson, Donald Stephenson and, this past season, Ja'Wuan James were all players the Broncos signed on the offensive line who had some injury history and then struggled with injuries after they arrived.


Nick Vannett, tight end

The Broncos are giving former Steelers tight end Nick Vannett a two-year deal.

What it means: Beyond Noah Fant -- the team's first-round pick last April -- the tight end group is full of question marks. Jeff Heuerman has not played more than 14 games in any of his previous four seasons due to a variety of injuries and has not had more than 14 catches in three of those years. Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli have also missed significant time with injuries, especially Butt, who is still working back from a third ACL tear. Vannett is a willing blocker and can have more impact in the passing game than he's had to this point in his career. At 6-foot-6, 261 pounds, he's the Broncos' biggest tight end and will pair with Fant in double tight end personnel groupings.

What's the risk: Almost none. The Broncos need more impact out of the position beyond Fant. Vannett is a low-risk investment with a good potential return, especially if he can do a little more in the passing game than he's done previously in his career. He had a career-best 29 catches with Seattle in 2018 and started six games for the Steelers last season after the Seahawks traded him to Pittsburgh in September.


Sam Martin, punter

The Broncos are bringing in former Detroit Lions punter Sam Martin on a three-year deal.

What it means: After consistently losing "hidden" yardage on special teams, the Broncos have made a significant investment in Martin -- just more than $7 million over a three-year deal. Colby Wadman finished 25th in the league in gross punting average last season and was 26th in net average. He also had some of his worst efforts when the Broncos really needed to flip the field. Martin was 17th in gross average last season, 11th in net and his 31 punts inside the 20 put him at sixth in the league.

What's the risk: There isn't much risk here other than if Martin simply can't fix what has been a significant issue for the Broncos for much of the last two seasons. The deal is in line with the cost of doing business at the position -- as the $2.45 million per year average puts him roughly in the middle of the pack league-wide (14th). He is part of a somewhat measured approach in free agency as the Broncos have tried to address some of their biggest needs in the open market (guard Graham Glasgow, running back Melvin Gordon and tight end Nick Vannett), freeing them up to take the best player available with each draft pick.


Broncos place franchise tag on Justin Simmons

Franchise tag salary: $12.7 million

Seasons: Four

Career highlights: Justin Simmons' teammates believed he was one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs in in the league this past season -- he was voted second-team All-Pro -- and last year was easily his best overall effort in his career. His athleticism and savvy are on display in every game, but one sticks out for many. As a rookie in 2016, he leapt over blockers in front of him to block an extra point attempt in New Orleans and the Broncos returned it for a game-winning two-point conversion.

Why he was tagged: Not only is Simmons one of the Broncos' most versatile and prepared players, he is one of their most active in the community as well, given he was Denver's nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. He has played every snap of the past two seasons, topping 1,000 in each of those years, and taken on a variety of roles, including nickel cornerback when the defense has had injuries. He is one of those players -- on the field, in the locker room and in the community -- who, if he's not re-signed, other players have to wonder about their own chances of getting a new deal down the road.

What he brings: Simmons had his best overall season in 2019, his first year in Vic Fangio's defense. His four interceptions were a career best as were his 15 passes defensed. He has the athleticism and route recognition ability to play deep as well as the physicality to play along the line of scrimmage. He is still an ascending player as he enters his fifth year, given he played far more mistake-free this past season as the Broncos played much better assignment football overall.