Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is entering the final year of his contract with the team.
When it comes to giving him an extension, it’s not really a cut-and-dry case with a definitive answer of whether or not that deal should happen. Based on talent alone, Gordon is easily among the league’s top running backs. However, a string of bad luck with injuries could cost him the big deal he seeks.
Gordon’s career with the team got off to a rocky start as he rushed for just 641 yards during his rookie season while failing to find the end zone one time. He’s turned things around since then, rushing for 28 touchdowns over the course of the last three seasons while adding 10 more scores through the air.
But he’s only played a full 16-game season one time, missing nine games in his young career due to injury, including four last season.
Looking at the market for running backs, Gordon might be looking for a deal that pays him around $14 million per year based on the kind of money that Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell have recently gotten. Would the Chargers be willing to meet that price? Would Gordon be willing to take a little less in order to stick around?
Those are the questions that must be answered.
Behind Gordon, the Chargers have Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome at the running back position. While all three are certainly capable of making plays when their number is called, it’s hard to say for sure if they are capable of carrying the ball 20 to 25 times per game for a full season.
The Chargers have proven they have been able to win without Gordon, and that may be one of the more important things to consider when it comes to whether or not the team should extend him. As mentioned, he missed four games last season (vs. Tennessee in London, at Pittsburgh, vs. Cincinnati and at Kansas City). Two of those games, the ones on the road against the Steelers and Chiefs, were two of the most difficult games on the schedule.
The Chargers won all four of those contests and the most carries any player had in any of those games was 16 by Jackson against the Chiefs.
So the Chargers can win with this roster without having that bellcow back. How much of a factor that plays into a possible extension for “Flash” Gordon remains to be seen.
On the other hand, Gordon is a complete back who can catch the ball out of the backfield. He has a career average of 4.0 yards per carry while catching 182 passes in four seasons. He is a key piece of the offense and one the team would love to keep around.
However, Tom Telesco has stated that there is no timetable for an extension to be executed.
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That said, an extension should be offered to Gordon at some point before the regular season starts, so long as he isn’t expecting to get Gurley money. That wouldn’t be a wise move.
The team has several key free agents at the end of the season including Hunter Henry, Mike Pouncey and of course, Philip Rivers. If any member of the team is going to get an extension, it should probably be Rivers before Gordon.
It will be a delicate situation for the Chargers and one that must be handled properly. If no extension is given, Gordon could always do what Bell did last year and hold out. That likely wouldn’t happen, but if you get into the regular season without an extension, there’s a good chance Gordon will be willing to see what he can get on the open market in 2020. And the Chargers might just be fine with allowing him to do that.
It will be an interesting summer for the two sides, to be sure.