Melvin Gordon

Extension Candidate: Melvin Gordon

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon said at the end of January that he would wait until Le’Veon Bell signed a new contract before engaging in extension talks with the Bolts. He later walked back those comments and said he would be open to negotiating an extension with the Chargers immediately, but regardless, Bell has finally landed his much-ballyhooed deal and Gordon and LA now have another benchmark to consider in their own negotiations.

GM Tom Telesco has said that he is open to considering an extension for Gordon — who is entering the final year of his rookie deal — this offseason, per Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times. However, Telesco indicated he didn’t have a timetable for a new deal, and given that there have not been any public reports concerning an extension, it may not happen until the summer at this point.

Gordon’s injury history is a complicating factor, but his talent is undeniable. The 2015 first-round pick 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.

But he did miss four games down the stretch in 2018, and he had December IR trips in 2015 and 2016. He did manage a full 16-game slate in 2017, and Telesco said he does not have “too many concerns” about Gordon’s durability, though that may not be entirely true.

In any event, Gordon 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 Bell just landed a $13.125MM/year pact. The Cardinals’ David Johnson is now working under a $13MM/year deal and stands to earn $32MM in guarantees.

Gordon is due a modest $5.61MM this year under his fifth-year option, and if he does not get the long-term deal he’s looking for, he could force the issue by holding out. But it sounds as though both sides are willing to continue their relationship for the foreseeable future, and as Miller observes, Gordon is a popular figure in the Chargers’ locker room, so team brass will want to be careful about how it handles negotiations with him.

The guess here is that Gordon gets his extension sometime before the start of the regular season and lands a four-year deal worth about $14MM per year and with $35MM or so in guarantees.

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Melvin Gordon To Wait On Le’Veon Bell Deal

Two of Melvin Gordon‘s peers reset the stagnant running back market in 2018, but the Chargers back will wait to see what happens with a unique free agent before entering into extension talks with his own team.

By virtue of hitting the open market, Le’Veon Bell may land a deal which could conceivably surpass those of Todd Gurley and David Johnson. Or Bell’s workload and injury history compared to those two may prevent his deal from breaking records.

Either way, the running back market will look different after the soon-to-be ex-Steelers back signs his long-sought-after contract. And Gordon, going into his fifth season, will not commit to a Chargers long-term pact until this happens.

I’m waiting. I’m sitting back waiting, waiting on Bell,” Gordon said during an appearance on NFL Media’s Around The NFL podcast (via the Orange County Register). “I’m glad it’s changing because we (running backs) were getting devalued for a little bit. But me, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, I can go down a whole list, Bell, you name it, ‘Zeke,’ just game-changers, Alvin Kamara, all those guys.”

Entering the 2019 offseason, the running back market is vastly improved from where it rested the previous few years. After Adrian Peterson‘s contract came off the Vikings’ books, LeSean McCoy‘s $8MM-per-year deal led the way, before Devonta Freeman‘s $8.25MM-AAV accord — a lower percentage of the cap when the Falcons back signed, compared to McCoy’s pact — raised it. Gurley pushed that to $14.38MM per year, with Johnson settling in at $13MM.

With no other backs signing for between the new top tier (Gurley and Johnson) and the second tier (topped by McCoy and Freeman’s contracts) since last year, a sizable gulf exists. Averaging a career-high 114.6 yards from scrimmage per game last season, Gordon seemingly would be in line to land a deal in between the Gurley-Freeman gap. Bell may help determine what Gordon’s next deal’s numbers look like, with Ezekiel Elliott surely monitoring the proceedings closely as well.

Like Bell, Gordon’s injury history (December IR trips in each of his first two seasons and four missed games in 2018) may come into play, only the latter likely will not have the luxury of hitting the market. The Chargers have Gordon locked down via team-friendly $5.61MM fifth-year option next season.

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Melvin Gordon Expected Back Week 16

Sidelined for the last three games, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is expected to make a return to the field when Los Angeles takes on Baltimore in Week 16, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets

The Pro Bowl running back has been sidelined since sustaining a grade 2 MCL sprain in Los Angeles’ Week 12 matchup with Arizona. The Chargers back was operating as one of the league’s best backs before the injury. Through ten games, Gordon had nine rushing touchdowns and has averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He also had 44 catches for 453 yards and four scores.

His absence hasn’t exactly slowed down the Chargers, who have rattled off three consecutive wins without their star running back to move into a tie for first place in the AFC West. Though the team is rolling, the ground game has taken a back seat, producing two of the team’s four worst rushing performances on the year.

The Chargers currently hold the tiebreaker over the Chiefs for the top spot in the West, but have a tough challenge against a Ravens squad also battling for playoff positioning.

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Chargers RB Melvin Gordon A Game-Time Decision?

Although the Chargers are reportedly not optimistic that they’ll have running back Melvin Gordon for Thursday night’s contest against the Chiefs, Gordon himself believes he’ll be a game-time decision for the pivotal AFC West matchup, as Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com writes.

“I’ve been grinding hard to get back and we’re still trying to decide what we’re going to do,” Gordon said. “I know Coach [Anthony Lynn] is trying to be careful and doesn’t want me to further hurt myself or things like that. So we’ll see where that goes, but I’m a lot stronger and more confident than I was last week.

“I’d love to be out there,” Gordon continued. “I know it’s a big game and I know the guys want me to be out there. We need all of the play-makers we can to beat K.C.; you know how explosive they are. I just love football, and we’ve only got a few games left before we get to the offseason, then we can do what we want to do.”

The Chargers haven’t exactly played it safe with Gordon’s health this season. Los Angeles allowed its star running back to suit up and handle a normal workload against an overmatched Cardinals team in Week 12, and Gordon ultimately left that game with an MCL injury and hasn’t played since. Thursday’s contest against the Chiefs has far more at stake, so the Chargers might be even more amenable to deploying Gordon despite his injury status.

If Gordon can’t play against Kansas City, Los Angeles figures to deploy Justin Jackson in a full-time manner, with fellow rookie Detrez Newsome also seeing snaps.

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Chargers To Be Without Gordon, Ekeler?

With a win over the Chiefs on Thursday night, the Chargers can take a step closer towards winning the AFC West title. Unfortunately, it sounds like they’ll go into the game without their two best running backs. 

The Chargers are not optimistic that Melvin Gordon (knee) and Austin Ekeler (neck, concussion) will be ready for this weeks’ game, head coach Anthony Lynn tells Steve Wyche of NFL.com (on Twitter). Instead, the Chargers are planning to use rookie running backs Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome in the backfield.

Gordon has been sidelined since sustaining a grade 2 MCL sprain in Los Angeles’ Week 12 matchup with Arizona. Since then, Jackson has been a bit of a mixed bag for the Chargers. He averaged eight yards per carry in Weeks 12 and 13, but had just 12 yards off of seven carries in Sunday’s win over the Bengals. Newsome, meanwhile, has not touched the ball in the last two games.

If the Chiefs beat the Chargers on Thursday, they’ll clinch the AFC West title, allowing them to rest their best players over the final two weeks of the season. Even in that scenario, the Chargers are all virtually assured a place in the postseason.

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La Canfora’s Latest: Paton, Coughlin, McCarthy

Vikings assistant GM George Paton has seen his name come up a great deal over the past couple of years as rival clubs sought new general managers, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that Paton remains one of the top candidates for teams that will be looking for a GM in 2019. The fact that Paton has withdrawn his name from consideration for GM jobs in the past have suggested to some that he does not want to leave Minnesota, but La Canfora says Paton is indeed open to taking over a franchise next year. Although he declined to interview with the Dolphins in the past, Miami would be a potential landing spot if the team were to make front office changes this offseason.

Now for more from La Canfora’s typically abundant supply of Sunday reports:

  • There have been rumblings that Jaguars team president Tom Coughlin could return to the sidelines and become Jacksonville’s head coach (again) in 2019. La Canfora noted last week that Coughlin could take over as the Jags’ HC, and the fact that the team’s 2018 campaign has been tarnished by fights, suspensions, and lack of discipline could convince Coughlin, a noted disciplinarian, to take the reins. JLC says that there is a “growing perception” around the league that Coughlin will at least consider that move.
  • It has been obvious for some time that 2018 would be Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie‘s last year with the team, and La Canfora reaffirmed as much this morning. In addition to their GM, the Raiders will also be replacing several other members of their scouting and football operations staff, per La Canfora.
  • The Chiefs and Chargers will play each other in a pivotal Week 15 bout this Thursday. La Canfora tweets that Kansas City safety Eric Berry and Los Angeles running back Melvin Gordon will both be on the field for that game, although both are inactive today.
  • La Canfora confirms that former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will be “very judicious” about his next opportunity and may not return to the sidelines in 2019 if the right opportunity does not present itself. We have already heard that the Jets‘ opening may not be especially appealing to McCarthy, and although his connection with Cleveland GM John Dorsey has led to plenty of speculation that McCarthy could take over as the Browns‘ HC, La Canfora says the Panthers and Ravens gigs — should they open up — are more intriguing to McCarthy. Sources close to McCarthy say they do not expect him to land in Cleveland.
  • Former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt is undergoing counseling for anger management and alcohol use, and he is also being mentored by a pastor and attending women’s group sessions as he attempts to prove to the league that he is ready for another opportunity. La Canfora says that no one is expected to sign Hunt until the league announces his suspension for three separate incidents, but that several teams have already reached out to him and will continue to monitor his progress and recovery. JLC’s sources say they expect Hunt to play in 2019, and Hunt himself is reportedly eager to assist the league in its investigations.

Melvin Gordon To Miss Week 14

The Chargers will be without the services of Melvin Gordon for at least another game, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets

The Pro Bowl running back has been sidelined since sustaining a grade 2 MCL sprain in Los Angeles’ Week 12 matchup with Arizona. There were hopes he could make a return in time for the team’s Sunday tilt with the Bengals, but the earliest he could now return is a pivotal Thursday-night showdown with the Chiefs.

The absence of the star running back didn’t slow down the Chargers in Week 13, as they pulled out a thrilling 33-30 victory over the Steelers on Sunday night thanks to the services of Austin Ekeler and rookie Justin Jackson. With Gordon out, those two will again share the carries against a Cincinnati team in a free fall, having lost each of its last four games.

At 9-3, the Chargers have all but locked up a playoff spot. They are, however, still battling with the Chiefs for the division crown. With Kansas City on the schedule just four days after their meeting with the Bengals, the Chargers could be taking a cautious approach to make sure the 2017 Pro Bowl selection is ready to go.

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West Notes: Cardinals, Wilks, Taylor, Gordon

We learned at the end of November that Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks is very much on the hot seat less than one year after being one of the hottest head coaching candidates on the market. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network confirms as much today, reporting that Arizona will reassess its entire football operations and coaching staff at the end of the 2018 campaign (video link). Rapoport says all options are on the table, including dismissing both Wilks and GM Steve Keim, keeping both, or keeping one and not the other. Wilks’ fate will depend in large part on whether the 2-9 Cards continue to play hard for him down the stretch.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • If Wilks does get the boot, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that current Jets head coach Todd Bowles could return to the Cardinals as their HC. Bowles served as Arizona’s defensive coordinator from 2013-14 before accepting the head coaching job with Gang Green, and he remains a beloved figure in the desert. He enjoyed his time with the Cardinals, has strong ties with many prominent figures in the organization, and has a good relationship with some of the existing assistant coaches, so the Cardinals could turn to Bowles if they want to replace Wilks but avoid a complete overhaul. Bowles is expected to be fired by the Jets at the end of the 2018 season.
  • The Rams‘ success under head coach Sean McVay is having a trickle-down effect on his coaching staff. La Canfora writes that Los Angeles’ quarterbacks coach, Zac Taylor, is drawing plenty of buzz as a head coaching candidate and is expected to receive significant interest from clubs looking for a new HC this year. Taylor served as Miami’s offensive coordinator during the second half of the 2015 season and earned rave reviews for his work, and teams would love to bring the 35-yard-old aboard as a coordinator. But the relatively shallow pool of top HC candidates expected to be available in 2019 suggests that Taylor could make a McVay-like leap to the head coaching ranks next year.
  • Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who is currently sidelined with a Grade 2 MCL sprain, could be back as soon as next week, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Gordon will miss tonight’s game against Pittsburgh but has a chance to return for the team’s December 9 matchup with the Bengals or the December 13 game in Arrowhead.
  • Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who returned to practice this week, is not expected to play today, per Rapoport (Twitter link). However, Berry has not suffered any setbacks, so he could be ready to go when Kansas City hosts the Ravens next week.
  • More troubling news has emerged regarding former Chiefs star Kareem Hunt, which we detailed this morning.

Chargers’ Melvin Gordon To Miss Time

The Chargers won in dominant fashion on Sunday, but it didn’t come without a price. Running back Melvin Gordon suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain against the Cardinals and will miss the “next few weeks,” according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). On the plus side, Gordon is expected to return before the regular season is through. 

Gordon has been positively stellar in his fourth pro season. Through ten games, Gordon has nine rushing touchdowns and has averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He also has 44 catches for 453 yards and four scores, positioning him as one of the league’s very best running backs.

Thanks in large part to his efficiency, the Chargers are 8-3 on the year and are virtually assured a spot in the playoffs, even if they cannot catch the Chiefs for the divisional lead. By the time Gordon is cleared to return, the Chargers may be in position to rest him – or at least ease his workload – before the postseason gets underway.

The Chargers will be without their top rusher when they face the Steelers on Sunday night and for their subsequent game against the Bengals on Dec. 9. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be available to play against the Chiefs on Dec. 13 and the Ravens on Dec. 22.

In the interim, the Chargers will lean a bit more on pass-catching specialist Austin Ekeler and fellow ‘backs Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Dalton, Gordon, Berry

It’s been a rough November for the Bengals, who have tumbled off the No. 6 seed line on “If the season ended today” graphics. Now, the 5-6 team may be facing the prospect of playing its first game without Andy Dalton in three years. The longtime Cincinnati starter left Sunday’s loss to the Browns early because of a thumb injury, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets initial tests did not reveal a break. Dalton will undergo further examination, but it appears the eighth-year starter avoided serious injury. His status for Week 13 is uncertain, however. The Bengals did not invest much resources in at backup quarterback this year, going with Jeff Driskel after the departure of A.J. McCarron. A former UDFA, Driskel entered today’s game having thrown seven career passes — all this season. He would be in line to face the Broncos next week if Dalton can’t go.

Here’s the latest from the AFC:

  • Melvin Gordon might not be as fortunate. The Chargers‘ explosive starter may see his All-Pro bid put on hold because of a knee injury he sustained Sunday. Gordon left the Bolts’ win over the Cardinals because of an MCL malady, Eric Williams of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Gordon will undergo additional evaluation on Monday, but Williams notes there’s a real possibility the top-tier running back won’t be able to go next week against the Steelers. An MCL tear would put the rest of Gordon’s regular season in jeopardy. Gordon was battling a hamstring injury this week but suited up and scored twice before leaving the game.
  • The Chiefs have waited for months for Eric Berry to show progress, and it looks to finally be happening. After a report previously indicated the three-time All-Pro safety was close to returning to practice for the first time in three-plus months, Rapoport tweets the Chiefs indeed expect Berry to practice this week. Berry’s dealing with Haglund’s deformity, a heel ailment, and hasn’t practiced since training camp. Since signing his $13MM-per-year extension, Berry’s played in just one game. But the Chiefs did not place him on IR this season and clearly believe a return could well happen soon.
  • Baltimore is 2-0 in Lamar Jackson‘s starts and may not be ready to return to Joe Flacco when he’s healthy again.