Chargers running back Melvin Gordon has informed the team that unless he receives a new contract, he will not report to training camp and he will demand a trade, agent Fletcher Smith tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Gordon has been pushing for a new deal, but this is a previously unforeseen development for the Los Angeles star.
Gordon, one of the league’s premier running backs, has already built up quite the odometer at the age of 26. With more than 1,000 carries on his resume, the former first-round pick is looking to cash in as he enters his contract year. For now, Gordon is slated to count for a $5.6MM cap figure before (potentially) reaching free agency after the 2019 season.
The Chargers, in theory, hold the leverage. After ’19 – Gordon’s fifth-year option season – the Bolts can assign the franchise tag to Gordon for the 2020 season, once more for 2021, and theoretically do it for a third time in 2022, though the rate for a third tag would be a cap killer. With his threat of a holdout and possible trade demand, Gordon might be able to even things out.
For Gordon, a new deal would mean a significant pay bump, as well as fiscal certainty. The running back position is especially dangerous and every player in the league is eager for guarantees with a new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon.
We examined Gordon’s case for an extension back in March. At the time, we noted that GM Tom Telesco is open to considering an extension for Gordon, but that Telesco did not offer a timetable for getting a deal done.
Gordon does not have eye-popping YPC numbers in his career (he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry over his four professional seasons), but he did manage 5.1 yards per tote in 2018. He is also a major weapon as a receiver, compiling over 400 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons. He has 28 rushing touchdowns and 10 receiving scores in his career, and he was a key part of the Chargers’ return to the postseason last year.
As a result, the Wisconsin product stands to cash in and will surely be paid at the high end of the running back market. Todd Gurley is currently the pacesetter with an average annual value of $14.375MM and $45MM in guarantees, while Le’Veon Bell recently landed a $13.125MM/year pact. The Cardinals’ David Johnson is now working under a $13MM/year deal that includes $32MM in guarantees.
Since 2016, Gordon has been at the top of the RB heap. Over the last three seasons, he has 28 rushing touchdowns (second most in the NFL), ten receiving touchdowns (fourth-most amongst running backs), and 38 touchdowns from scrimmage (second-most in the NFL).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.