An unexpected storyline that emerged this offseason for the LA Chargers is the future of Austin Ekeler. Ekeler was granted permission by the Chargers to seek out a trade after the two sides could not make progress on a contract extension.
Ekeler wants an extension that pays what he perceives to be market value. The back has said that he is underpaid and is seemingly seeking a deal that pays him around $10-12 million per season. His base salary is $6.25 million this season.
The problem for Ekeler is that the running back market is no longer robust. Teams have caught onto the fact that paying a running back is not the best in terms of roster building. Miles Sanders, who is younger than Ekeler and is comparable in terms of value, signed a deal that pays him an average of $6.3 million per year.
This points to an Ekeler trade being dead as there simply might not be a team that is willing to pay Ekeler what he is perceived to be worth. It is unfortunate for Ekeler and fans should always advocate for players to earn as much money as possible but that is the reality of the situation. The Chargers are not in the wrong by not wanting to offer him an extension over market value.
It does not seem like Ekeler is fully grasping onto that reality quite yet (and we can't blame him). When asked what team he wants to play for, Ekeler made it very clear what he is looking for and even sent some subtle shots at the Chargers.
Austin Ekeler's Chargers future looks unsalvageable.
Once again, we cannot blame Austin Ekeler for trying to get a raise and doing anything he can to make it happen. Players absolutely should be fighting for their fair share of what they think they are worth.
But the things that Ekeler said and how the star running back said them doesn't look great for the Chargers. This doesn't seem like someone who wants a raise. This seems like someone who is disgruntled because his current team does not value him as much as he values himself.
This looks like a situation that could boil into training camp and the season. Sitting out the entire season does not work (just look at Le'Veon Bell) but the relationship could get fractured enough that the Chargers simply have to cut ties, even if Ekeler's new team doesn't want to give him the extension he wants.
Ekeler doesn't have a no-trade clause and the Chargers don't need his blessing. If things get bad enough, and it looks to be trending that way, the Chargers may not hesitate in moving Ekeler at all costs.