Austin Ekeler projected to leave Chargers for worst possible team in free agency

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers / Michael Owens/GettyImages

Many fans realized that the 2023 season would be Austin Ekeler's last with the LA Chargers before the season even started. Failed extension and trade talks all but guaranteed his departure from LA, which is something he teased right after the season ended.

Ekeler is coming off the worst season of his career so it is a no-brainer for the Chargers to pivot away from the veteran and get younger at running back. While Ekeler won't get paid as much as he would have two years ago, he still does have value as a veteran back and should find a new team in the offseason.

ESPN's staff recently put together its predictions for the top 50 NFL free agents this offseason and thinks that Ekeler is going to take the same path that Drue Tranquill did a year ago. After several years with the Chargers, ESPN predicts that Ekeler will sign with the Kansas City Chiefs.

"With Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon heading to free agency, the Chiefs could sign Ekeler on a short-term deal to work in rotation with Isiah Pacheco. He would give coach Andy Reid a pass-game threat out of 21 personnel with the ability to flex from the backfield. "

Chiefs signing Austin Ekeler is the worst-case scenario for the Chargers

Ekeler had a down season in 2023 but he still has value and if there is any team in the league that would extract every ounce of value he has left it is the Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid is an offensive mastermind and in his system, Ekeler would look a lot more like his 2021 form.

The Chiefs signing Ekeler would be the worst-case scenario for two reasons. First is the obvious fact that a Charger would be leaving for a hated division rival. The fanbase has already soured on Ekeler and it would get exponentially worse if he were to sign with the Chiefs.

What makes it even worse though is that this signing makes a lot of sense for the Chiefs. Isiah Pacheco would still rightfully be the bell-cow back but Ekeler would provide that pass-catching presence the Chiefs will desperately need out of the backfield. With Travis Kelce only getting older, adding another weapon for Patrick Mahomes that is at another level of the offense is dangerous.

Even though he struggled to run the ball, Ekeler is still one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. If he is only asked to produce in the passing game then his numbers in that regard will be even more efficient.

It is such a smart signing for the Chiefs that Chargers fans have to hope that Ekeler chases money, not a ring. The Chiefs shouldn't be paying Ekeler that much on a one-year deal to be a rotation back. There probably will be other teams in the league that offer to pay Ekeler more.

The hope has to be that Ekeler wants the bigger payday and still believes in himself as an RB1 and doesn't want to sign up to be a rotation back. Because if he does take the route of chasing a ring with the Chiefs then the Chargers could be in trouble when Ekeler comes to town.

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