The Los Angeles Chargers recently granted running back Austin Ekeler’s request to seek a trade after preliminary extension talks between the two sides did not progress.
Ekeler spoke about that recently and explained that he’s “relentlessly” pursuing a new long-term deal because he’s “so underpaid” right now.
“I feel like there’s no timeline,” he said while speaking to former NFL defensive end Chris Long. “… I’m so underpaid right now, as far as my contract and what I contribute to the team. I am, I am relentlessly pursuing this. I want to get something long-term done. I want a team that wants me long term. I’m at the peak of my game.”
The 27-year-old makes a solid point about being underpaid. He’s one of the most versatile backs in the league and led the NFL in combined rushing and receiving touchdowns during each of the last two seasons.
During the 2022 campaign, he carried the ball 204 times for 915 yards and 13 touchdowns. He added 107 catches for 722 yards and five scores.
In the previous season, he ran for 911 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 647 yards and eight touchdowns through the air.
Despite that production, he’s only set to receive a base salary of about $6.3 million in the 2023 season. That number is ninth among all running backs in the NFL.
Three of the running backs that are set to make more than him in 2023 were franchise tagged by their respective teams. Those three are Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard. They will all make a little under $10.1 million.
While Ekeler has been seeking a trade, it’s not as though he really wants to leave the Chargers. He just wants to get paid what he feels he is worth.
Some might point to San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey’s current deal as a solid reference for what Ekeler deserves. After all, the two are pretty similar players in that they both offer a lot on the ground and through the air.
McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Carolina Panthers back in 2020 and is set to make a base salary of $11.8 million this season. At 26 years old, he’s slightly younger than Ekeler, but he is somewhat injury-prone.
It will be interesting to follow Ekeler’s situation as the offseason goes on. There are plenty of teams that could use a star running back like him.