Austin Ekeler's trade request after contract talks with the Chargers stalled has swallowed up most of the headlines over the past two weeks. And rightfully so: the Bolts' running back has high usage in their offense. But as Ekeler himself said on Chris Long's 'Green Light Podcast', the two sides are still very far apart in negotiations. In the worst-case scenario where Ekeler is unable to get the extension he has in mind, he'd still play out the season.
Aside from Ekeler, there's is one other impending 2024 free agent worth talking about in terms of extension. Cornerback Michael Davis is slated to hit the open market one year from now.
If the Chargers and Ekeler are still as far apart on negotiations as they are reported to be, Tom Telesco needs to consider pivoting to paying his breakout cornerback for a few key reasons.
3 reasons why the Chargers should prioritize Michael Davis extension over Austin Ekeler
Preserving high level play at a valuable position for the Chargers
Davis was one of a few defensive players who struggled in 2021 when adjusting to Brandon Staley's system. But after this past season, those are all in the rearview mirror. As it stands on the roster currently, he's the only corner that Staley trusts to be his CB1.
For Staley's defense, in particular, that's very important. Entering his age-28 season, he probably still has one or two more prime years left in him on top of his current contract. With a big cap increase next year and a bigger boom at premium free agent positions both expected, other teams around the league will see Davis as more valuable than Ekeler.
Because of a hotter free agent market next year and the Chargers' alarming lack of cap space when that time comes, it would benefit the team's odds of keeping Davis greatly if they made a legitimate offer now.
In terms of extension talks, Telesco also has a history of extending to keep his valuable top corners. In March of 2015, Brandon Flowers received a four-year, $36 million extension. In March of 2018, Casey Hayward signed a three-year contract for the same amount. Michael Davis himself received a similar internal pay bump in the 2021 offseason.
Telesco has had no problems with paying premiums on the defensive side of the ball before and extending Davis given the current Ekeler scenario should be no exception. Davis would without a doubt be the more valuable free agent addition relative to Ekeler in 2024 if 32 front offices were polled around the league.