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LA Chargers: Austin Ekeler’s extension is another great Tom Telesco move

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 15: Running back Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers carries the ball in game against the Minnesota Vikings at Dignity Health Sports Park on December 15, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 15: Running back Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers carries the ball in game against the Minnesota Vikings at Dignity Health Sports Park on December 15, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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An efficient contract extension for Austin Ekeler punctuates the great week LA Chargers general manager Tom Telesco had to start the offseason.

On Friday, Austin Ekeler got a four-year contract extension, making him a Charger through 2023. This capped a week of savvy moves for the LA Chargers that put the team in a better spot for free agency, the draft, and 2020 as a whole.

First, the Chargers parted ways with Travis Benjamin. Ian Rapoport had the scoop on Tuesday. It was incredibly important to not rely on Benjamin as the third receiver in 2020. The drops simply became a problem the team couldn’t ignore.

From 2016-2018, the Chargers were fifth-worst in the NFL in drops, in large part because of Benjamin. It didn’t get any better in 2019, where Benjamin was still ranked high amongst the league in drops and then hit injured reserve because of a quad injury.

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Parting ways with Benjamin definitely sets up the Chargers to take an exciting draft prospect or look at options in free agency. This is one of the best draft classes for wide receivers in a while, and getting that third receiver to place behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams could be so crucial.

Names like Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, Brandon Aiyuk, and Michael Pittman Jr. should still be in the draft picture from rounds two to four.

Trading Russell Okung to the Panthers for Trai Turner was the second big move of the week for the Chargers. About a week ago, I wrote about how Okung should be released, mainly due to his cap hit and health concerns. His uncertainty about the franchise played a part as well. However, Telesco decided to recoup some quality play from the Okung contract in a trade.

Turner is a five-time Pro Bowler who is five years younger than Okung. He will be a key cog in the offensive line for the next two seasons at least. In first hearing the news about the trade, my assumption was that the Chargers gave up a pick in the trade to be able to get such a quality return.

There were no other assets given up for Turner’s young, elite, offensive line play. The cap hit for Turner is also two million less than Okung’s would’ve been.

That’s what brings us to the extension of Ekeler. The four-year, $24.5 million extension is a very team-friendly deal in the long term for the Chargers. The two million in average annual value they saved from trading Okung for Turner also helps them here.

Ekeler could very well have another season where he gets 1500 total yards next year, and if the Chargers had waited to extend him, they could’ve wound up paying $10 million-plus per season.

Next. What Austin Ekeler's extension means for Melvin Gordon

It’s still very early in the offseason with free agency and the draft still on the horizon, but Telesco is off to a good start. Getting rid of Benjamin is a huge step towards bolstering the wide receiver group in free agency, the draft, or both. The Turner for Okung swap saved the LA Chargers a decent amount of money on the cap. That money on the cap allowed them to save quite a bit, even with re-signing Ekeler.

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