The Los Angeles Chargers found their running back of the future. The team made its decision Friday, agreeing with Austin Ekeler on a four-year, $24.5 million extension, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Ekeler, 24, is coming off his best season as a pro. With Melvin Gordon sitting out early, Ekeler — a workout warrior — blossomed into an impressive dual threat with the Chargers. He finished the season with 557 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Ekeler also caught 92 passes for 993 yards and eight scores.
Ekeler was set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Chargers had no interest in letting Ekeler get away.
What does Austin Ekeler’s deal mean for the Chargers?
The move signals that the Gordon era is over in Los Angeles. While Gordon turned in some impressive seasons with the team, he struggled in his walk year. Gordon sat out the first four games of the Chargers’ season in an attempt to secure a new contract.
When he returned, Gordon played like a guy who missed the first four games of the season. He failed to exceed 35 yards in each of his first four games back with the team. While Gordon rebounded — particularly in the middle of the season — his 612 yards and eight rushing touchdowns were considered a disappointment.
Ekeler’s deal also gives the Chargers another piece to build around on offense. With Philip Rivers likely gone, the Chargers will rely on a new quarterback in 2020. The team can use both Keenan Allen and Ekeler to sell free-agent quarterbacks on the Chargers. On top of being a solid runner, Ekeler can provide a nice safety valve in the passing game, and that could appeal to some signal-callers.
How does Austin Ekeler feel about the extension?
As you might expect, Ekeler seems pretty pleased about the deal. He praised the Chargers for taking a shot on him after he went undrafted in 2017.
What does Melvin Gordon do now?
With Gordon presumably no longer in the Chargers’ plans, he’ll be left to find a new team in the offseason. Gordon — a former first-round pick — has turned in some fantastic years in the NFL, but his holdout seemed to impact his play last season. Because of that, Gordon will have to convince teams that those struggles were a fluke and a result of the holdout.
At 26, Gordon still has plenty left in the tank. He should continue to be one of the better running backs in the league wherever he signs, but he’s probably not going to receive the mega deal he was looking for when he held out in September.
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