This is not a case where fans won't miss Austin Ekeler if he doesn't return in 2024. This is a case where fans won't miss Austin Ekeler when he doesn't return in 2024.
After failed contract extension talks prompted a trade request last spring, Ekeler turned in the worst year of his career that did not help his cause. Running backs age quickly in the NFL and Ekeler's 2023 season was a good reminder of that.
The previous Chargers brass did not want to give Ekeler a contract that took him into his 30s and it is highly unlikely that the new Chargers brass will be willing to do that. Ekeler's run with the Chargers was great and should be celebrated but that does not mean it should last any longer.
All that being said, Ekeler underwent a bit of a heel turn during the 2023 season. Fans were not happy with how he approached the trade situation. While Ekeler was 100% justified to try and maximize his earnings, the selfish way he went about it rubbed fans the wrong way. Add in the fact that Ekeler wasn't hesitant to go on talk shows and let the hosts bash Justin Herbert without defending him and it is not hard to see why he wasn't as big of a fan-favorite in 2023.
Ekeler didn't sour as much with the fanbase as Melvin Gordon did but who knows, there is more time for that to happen. Gordon really became a villain after his Chargers departure when he took a shot at the fanbase. If Ekeler does something similar then fans won't just not miss him, they will be actively happy that he is gone.