NFL Rumors: Chargers could be gifted Pro Bowl Austin Ekeler replacement
By Jason Reed
The LA Chargers may have to replace Austin Ekeler for the 2023 season. While nothing is yet set in stone, Ekeler's future is one of the most prominent storylines in the league right now. The veteran running back requested, and was granted, permission to seek out a trade after extension talks stalled with the Bolts.
It has not gone as Ekeler likely expected as the running back market was completely dead this offseason. The chances of the Chargers finding a team that wants to trade capital for Ekeler AND pay him more as part of an extension are very slim.
All that being said, the Chargers still have to have a contingency plan in place if Ekeler is not on the roster next season. The current options on the team are simply not good enough. LA may have to explore the early rounds of the draft and if that does not work out, may have to take a chance in free agency.
There are not many options for the Bolts if that is the route that they have to take. However, there could be a notable free-agent option hitting the market soon that the team might be interested in.
NFL Rumors: Dalvin Cook could be released, would make sense as an Austin Ekeler replacement
It is clear that NFL teams do not want to overpay for running backs any longer. We already saw Ezekiel Elliott get released earlier this offseason and it would not be unheard of to see Cook get the same treatment from the Minnesota Vikings.
Cook is definitely past his prime as an NFL running back and he certainly is not worth the money that the Vikings would have to pay him in 2023. That being said, he is still a valuable running back and would be an excellent replacement for Ekeler if it comes to that.
While he might not be the prime version of himself, Cook is someone who can still have an impact in both the passing and running game and would be able to find the end zone in a similar rate as Ekeler if given the exact same chances. Cook finished the 2022 season with 1,173 rushing yards on 264 carries, 295 receiving yards on 39 receptions and 10 combined touchdowns.
Of course, if there is a really promising running back in the draft that falls in the Chargers' lap then it would make more sense to go in that direction. But if the team is just looking for a one-year stopgap option then it might not get much better than Cook.
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