The Chargers offseason is already getting off to a crazy start and NFL free agency has not even begun. After four bold restructures to free up cap space by Tom Telesco, it looks like the Chargers could be saying goodbye to a marquee player.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Austin Ekeler has requested permission to speak to other teams about a potential trade this offseason. This comes after extension talks between Ekeler and the Chargers stalled.
This comes as a big surprise after many expected the Chargers to lock Ekeler down for multiple seasons in order to reduce his cap hit this offseason. However, that ultimately did not come to be and now Ekeler could be on the move.
What Austin Ekeler's trade request means for the LA Chargers:
There are several takeaways after this shocking Ekeler news. Of course, just because Ekeler is requesting permission to discuss a trade does not mean he will ultimately be traded. However, the way that this was reported makes it seem like a trade will happen.
1. It's more likely than not that Austin Ekeler isn't with the Chargers in 2023
Let's get the most obvious takeaway out of the way. The fact that this is how the situation is unfolding points all the signs towards the Chargers moving on from Ekeler and wiping their hands with the situation.
Ekeler is in the last year of his deal and it makes more sense to get something for him rather than nothing and turn the page to a new running back. Sure, Ekeler found the end zone a lot last season but he was one of the worst starting backs in the league at running between the tackles.
Tom Telesco and co. probably don't like the fact that Ekeler's agent is the one that spoke to insiders to break this news. When you do that, it usually means that you want out.
2. Bijan Robinson is a real possibility
Chargers fans have been clamoring over Texas running back Bijan Robinson this offseason and it is not hard to see why. Robinson is a freak athlete and is obviously the best running back in this class. That being said, picking him at 21 with Ekeler on the roster never seemed to make a lot of sense.
Running backs don't have much value which is why so few go in the first round. That being said, they do have value if a team literally has no viable starting options and needs someone right away to step in and pilot the ship.
If Robinson falls to 21 then there is almost a guarantee now that Telesco takes the best player available, which in that case would be him. However, I also would not rule out a trade-up, which would be an awful move regardless of how special Robinson is.
Trading up for a running back is horrible asset management, especially when the Chargers have multiple needs to fill. That being said, Telesco has already proven that he is going all-in this year with his seat being hot. Why does he care if he trades future picks to move up in the first if he won't be here if it doesn't work out?
3. If not Robinson, the Chargers could get creative
If the Chargers don't end up with Robinson then the team might use a second or third-round pick to try and get a starting running back. However, that comes with its risks as they would be asking a rookie to fill in a huge role with no NFL experience.
Thus, the Bolts may try to get creative. There are other running backs on the trade market (Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook) with multiple years left on their deals. Their respective teams would likely prefer taking on a one-year running back that gives them future flexibility.
It is at least worth considering.
4. Austin Ekeler's weird offseason now makes sense
Earlier this offseason Austin Ekeler was under fire because of his appearance on Fox Sports' 'Undisputed'. Ekeler sat there and listened to Skip Bayless go in on Justin Herbert and didn't really offer any counterpoints or stop the conversation.
That upset a lot of Chargers fans, who seemed to be turning on Ekeler as the weeks went on. That all makes a bit more sense now if Ekeler knew that he might already have one foot out the door.