Playing out 2023 is the best solution for the Chargers and Austin Ekeler
Both sides need each other
Most of this article has been about why my belief is that Ekeler's value around the league isn't as high. But obviously as stated earlier, his value to the Chargers' offense at this point in time is still massive.
Joshua Kelley isn't ready to step into an RB1 role despite his good 2022 campaign. Isaiah Spiller currently isn't trusted to take consistent snaps. Simply put, the Chargers don't have to on-roster options to replace Ekeler immediately.
Everyone remembers how Ekeler's journey with the Chargers really started. Melvin Gordon held out and Ekeler made the running back room his within the month, landing his extension after the season as the team let Gordon walk. While the Chargers hold leverage because of a smaller market for Ekeler in my opinion, they're also not in as good of a position as they were in 2019. They don't have a guy they could hand the keys to the car to right now.
For several reasons, a holdout is unlikely to happen here in contrast with the Gordon scenario. The CBA now heavily penalizes players for holding out and missing time.
The Chargers need Ekeler in the short term and after Ekeler asks what his value is around the league, it wouldn't surprise me if he still needs the Chargers. The relationship between the two sides seems amicable enough for Ekeler to return and prepare himself for 2024 free agency if his trade request were to not bear fruit.
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Maybe an extension gets done with the Chargers after both sides come back to the table, maybe it doesn't. But while contractual discussions are at a standstill at the moment, it feels like Ekeler and the Chargers are going to find that they at least need each other for one more year if #30's market isn't projected to be as good.