One of the biggest storylines surrounding the LA Chargers during the 2023 offseason was Austin Ekeler's future. After Ekeler and the team could not agree to terms on a contract extension, Ekeler was granted permission to seek out a trade.
There was no market for Ekeler despite his contributions in the previous two seasons as no teams wanted to trade the draft capital necessary and also extend him. As a result, Ekeler stayed in LA and the Chargers still did the nice thing of giving him new incentives on his deal so he could earn more money.
As great as Ekeler has been in the past, the argument for the Chargers not extending him was quite simple. An extension would have given Ekeler a pay raise into his 30s, which is typically when running backs really start to fall off. With the running back market already being non-existent, it would have been bad business to extend Ekeler.
Unfortunately for Ekeler, he has only been proving the Chargers right for not extending him this season. That included Sunday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens, where Ekeler coughed up his second fumble in as many weeks.
Thankfully for the Chargers, the fumble did not come back to bite as the Ravens were unable to put together a scoring drive. But this mistake nearly gave Baltimore more points before the team was set to recover the second-half kickoff.
Austin Ekeler has been painfully bad for the Chargers in 2023
Austin Ekeler was undoubtedly hoping to have another marquee season for the Chargers in 2023 so that he could prove his value and get a new deal from a team in the 2024 offseason. It appeared that Ekeler was going to do that as well as he put together a great game in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.
That would be the only bright spot for Ekeler this season. Right after that breakout game, Ekeler suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss three games. Upon his return, while he has found the endzone, he has not played like an RB1, let alone a marquee back.
In Weeks 6 through 11, Ekeler averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and was not having his usual impact in the passing game. Ekeler has just one game with five or more receptions on the season while he has had four drops. His 10.5% drop rate is the highest of his career thus far.
These struggles extended into Sunday Night Football against Baltimore. It wasn't just the fumble, as Ekeler didn't really do much in the first half. He finished with 16 yards rushing and two receptions.
Hopefully, Ekeler can turn it around as the season goes along simply so he can increase the Chargers' chances of going on some kind of miracle run. But even if he does that, he has already justifed the Chargers decision to not extend him, or give him a new deal after 2023.
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