Chargers try to force Melvin Gordon's hand, say they won't negotiate contract until after season

Ben Weinrib
·Yahoo Sports Contributor

The Los Angeles Chargers have made their latest chess move in an attempt to end star running back Melvin Gordon’s holdout.

On Sunday, general manager Tom Telesco announced in a conference call that the team would no longer negotiate Gordon’s contract until after the 2019 season.

Gordon is entering the final year of his rookie deal and wants a raise over his $5.6 million salary. However, the team has been unwilling to give that to him, and they gave him permission on Saturday to talk with other teams — maybe in an effort to show him that few, if any, will give him the money he wants.

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Only time will tell if Gordon will find a team willing to pay him — but that apparently won’t be the Chargers until after the season.

“I’m disappointed it has lasted this long. I pride myself in having solutions to problems, and I haven't solved this one yet,” Telesco said. “We know what he means to our team, and even bigger than that what he means to our organization. But the other side is we have a big game coming up this week with the Colts, and I’m confident in the players that we have on the field right now will play well.”

Why might this encourage Gordon to come back?

Gordon is far from the first running back to hold out for more money, and Le’Veon Bell sat out all of last season over a pay dispute. But there’s one major difference between Gordon’s holdout and Bell’s.

Whereas Bell refused to sign a franchise tender, Gordon still has one year remaining on his contract. If Bell never showed up, the Pittsburgh Steelers could have chosen to franchise tag him again or, as they did, let him go. If Gordon doesn’t report by Week 11, this won’t count as a season, and he will be under contract for $5.6 million again in 2020, just a year older.

The Chargers may be playing hardball, but Gordon needs to come back at some point this season unless he wants to run this whole thing back. If he knows he won’t be able to negotiate a contract even if he wanted, there’s less reason for him to hold out.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon III (28) jumps over Oakland Raiders safety Karl Joseph (42) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said the team won't discuss a new contract with running back Melvin Gordon until after the season. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Could an Ezekiel Elliott extension change things?

What’s interesting about this offseason compared to last is that Gordon isn’t the only star running back holding out. Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott is also seeking major money, potentially the biggest contract yet for a back.

Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported that the Cowboys and Zeke are close to finalizing a new contract. Elliott means more to his team (and owner) than Gordon does to the Chargers, but that would clearly prove that there’s a market for star running backs above $10 million.

Alternatively, if Elliott signs for less than expected or carries a holdout deeper into the season, Gordon’s leverage will drop even lower. Fantasy owners aren’t going to be the only ones keeping an eye on Zeke.

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