The LA Chargers agreed to a four-year contract extension with running back Austin Ekeler, which will have a direct impact on Melvin Gordon’s future.
The LA Chargers did not take long in making sure that Austin Ekeler would not test free agency. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Ekeler and the Bolts agreed on a four-year, $24.5 million contract with $15 million guaranteed.
Ekeler was set to be a restricted free agent when the league year began and is coming off of his best year as a professional. The 24-year-old running back carried the ball 132 times for 557 yards and three touchdowns while adding 92 receptions, 993 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns.
Ekeler is one of just three running backs to eclipse 900 receiving yards in a season since the turn of the century. Charlie Garner did it in 2002 with the Oakland Raiders and Christian McCaffrey also did it in 2019 with the Carolina Panthers.
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Ekeler’s new contract will make him the 10th-highest-paid running back in the league and gives the team something that fans were worried wouldn’t exist after this offseason: a long-term plan at the running back position.
One player that probably just got guaranteed to not be part of that long-term plan has been the starting running back of the team for four years, Melvin Gordon.
Gordon held out of OTAs and the preseason because of contract disputes and did not play until Week 5 of the season. At this very best, Gordon still has a higher ceiling than Ekeler does, as Gordon could be one of the five best running backs in the league.
Last season was not all that impressive for Gordon as his yards per attempt dropped from 5.1 to 3.8 and he averaged 51 rushing yards a game, the lowest since his rookie season. He also posted the fewest yards per reception and receiving yards per game since his rookie season.
Gordon is going to test the free-agent market and after locking up Austin Ekeler, the Chargers just guaranteed that he won’t be receiving the same contract from LA that he might receive elsewhere.
The Chargers theoretically could sign Gordon with the remaining cap space, but even if he gets a lesser deal than expected, the team will still be committing around $15 million to two running backs, which is not something that seems to work out, ever, in the NFL.
Spotrac estimates Gordon to get a four-year, $33.2 million contract and that might actually be higher after seeing what Ekeler got. While Gordon is not worth $4 million more per season than Ekeler, there will be desperate teams that need an impact back that see Ekeler’s contract and Gordon will be able to leverage.
In a way, the LA Chargers and Austin Ekeler are helping out Melvin Gordon.
This contract only solidifies the contract I expected Gordon to get from free agency, which will be in the four-year, $36-40 million range. Gordon might get more money than Ekeler, but Ekeler and the Chargers get the last laugh.
$24.5 million for Austin Ekeler might seem like a lot but we saw the potential start of a prime out of Ekeler and the Chargers smartly hopped on it quickly and chances are that by the end of the contract, Ekeler proves that he is worth more than the $6 million he will make per season and more than the $9-10 million that Melvin Gordon will make.