Chargers, Austin Ekeler Agree To Deal

The Chargers have identified the running back they’d like to keep for the long haul. Instead of Melvin Gordon, former UDFA Austin Ekeler now has a second Bolts contract.

Ekeler agreed to a four-year, $24.5MM deal on Friday, Adam Schefter of reports (on Twitter). This pact will include $15MM in guaranteed money. Ekeler was a restricted free agent but is now locked up through the 2023 season.

This represents a remarkable rise for Ekeler, who entered the league in 2017 undrafted out of Division II Western State (Colo.). While he backed up Gordon for most of his first two seasons, Ekeler thrived in a starting role and then alongside the former first-round pick in 2019.

He finished with 993 receiving yards — fifth-most ever in a season for a pure running back — and totaled 1,550 from scrimmage. Ekeler added 11 touchdowns and became the first Charger in 34 years to post a 100-100 game, which occurred against the Jaguars in December. His 10.3 receiving yards after catch ranked second in the NFL, per ESPN Stats & Info.

A report pointed Gordon toward free agency Thursday, and this Ekeler accord confirms it. After Gordon became extension-eligible in January 2018, the sides went two years without agreeing to terms. And Gordon’s 2019 holdout undoubtedly benefited his backup’s case for a payday. Ekeler agreed to his re-up — at a price south of what Gordon sought during his holdout — after being extension-eligible for barely two months. The Bolts and Ekeler began negotiating the extension in January, Schefter adds.

At 24, Ekeler is two years younger than Gordon and has logged 443 career touches — well behind Gordon’s 1,283. The Chargers should be able to rely on their passing-down back for a few more seasons, while Gordon will now have a chance to gauge his value on the open market.

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