The art of negotiation involves appreciating the other party’s position. Does Melvin Gordon? Here are six respectful but challenging questions for Melvin on his decision to hold out on the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers’ star running back, Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon III, surely has some good points to make about how much he is currently paid for what he contributes. But he is also holding out. So taking Gordon’s stated issue of performance versus pay, here’s a perspective from management’s side of the table.
A contract is all about the numbers, so let’s talk performance numbers. In your first four years, Mr. Gordon, you averaged 4.0 yards per carry (YPC). Last year in the league, 14 running backs with more rushing yards than you exceeded your 4.0 YPC average.
More averages: 1,301 total yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving), and 10.5 touchdowns averaged over your four seasons. By comparison, over the same time, Todd Gurley of the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams averaged 4.4 yards per carry, 1,607 total yards from scrimmage and 14 all-purpose touchdowns over his first four seasons. (Yes, you had injuries, but you are holding out over performance vs. pay, and the numbers define performance only in the context of your competition.)
In the fifth and final season, you want more money based on your fourth-year performance, yet the Chargers are already contracted to pay you 70% more this year than last. Yet you obviously would not accept refunding some Chargers’ money for your first three years’ performance.
Question 1: Are your current salary expectations in line with what an NFL running backs today, in their rookie contract, make on average when they average 4.0 YPC (Yards Per Carry) and about 900 rushing yards per (regular) season?
In the first four years of your rookie contract, Mr. Gordon, you missed nine regular-season games due to injury. That’s no one’s fault, but the facts are that you missed 14 percent of the games you were contracted to play.
Question 2: If your holdout issue is performance vs. pay, why have you not, based on your own reasoning, refunded 14 percent of your salary to date for games not played?
At the start of your NFL career, the Chargers contracted to pay a massive amount of your five-year contract as guaranteed cash. You could have had a career-ending injury, and the Chargers would still pay the full guaranteed amount. As with contracts with perennially injured Jason Verrett, and wash-out Jared Gaither (and countless others), the Chargers took the risk on your five-year performance, not you. You could retire from playing after this season a multi-millionaire.
Question 3: As the Chargers contracted to all five years of the guaranteed money, are you now, breaking the contract, going to return the guaranteed money?
History has a way of repeating itself, and so it should be studied. The Chargers ownership has a long history of dealing with holdouts.
General manager Tom Telesco, starting before the Chargers, has a history with holdouts as well. And in a season-long holdout, neither party will win anything.
Question 4: Why do you think you will be the exception to the rule in trying to force a new deal with the Bolts?
Melvin, your public position is “Pay me or trade me“. Looking at the league-wide running back contract numbers, the running back market has clearly changed. Part of this is the preponderance of teams who have “running back by committee”, two or three players/contracts that replace the traditional bell-cow running back.
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Look at Le’Veon Bell’s performance in his first four years. It exceeded your output, yet Bell did not get the money he was expecting when he left Pittsburgh and now languishes on a team that tied for last in the AFC in 2018. And the Steelers successfully replaced him with James Conner (4.5 yards per carry, #AStarIsBorn)
Question 5: Melvin, what team(s) specifically do you think would offer the Chargers good enough draft pick(s) and player(s) to prompt the Bolts to trade you this year or next?
You’re a very good player, Mr. Gordon, barring catastrophic injury, you have 4-6 prime years left. You are currently on one of the very top teams in the NFL.
You have a passion for the game, for excellence, and for winning. So the last question is short and simple:
Question 6: Where this season (or perhaps ever) will you have a better chance to win a Super Bowl than with the Chargers? And what would a Super Bowl win do for your income, your next contract and your promotional revenues?