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#pounditWednesday, July 17, 2024

Austin Ekeler points out major inconsistency in how Chargers handled him

Austin Ekeler catches a pass in warmups

Dec 2, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) warms up before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Ekeler is among the running backs in the NFL who are frustrated with the current compenstation for players at his position.

Teams are reluctant to give running backs long-term deals for big money for a few reasons. One, they know running backs tend to drop off as they age. Two, they know that investing in the passing game is more key to a team’s success than investing in the running game. Three, teams know that running backs get injured with frequency and are relatively replaceable.

Ekeler is due $6.25 million in base salary for the upcoming season, which is his last under contract before he becomes a free agent. Ekeler this offseason sought a trade from the Los Angeles Chargers, but no deal developed.

During a radio interview with CBS Sports’ Zach Gelb earlier this week, Ekeler explained why no deal went through. As Ekeler explained why, he pointed out some inconsistency with the Chargers.

“You were going to have to trade some high picks for me,” Ekeler said. “The Chargers, they weren’t going to let me go for anything that wasn’t up there, so they saw my value there. It’s funny how when they allow me the trade, they’re like, ‘OK, but we want you to get these types of picks,’ which were not low picks, ‘but we’re not going to pay you like you’re that type of player.’ So, it’s kind of interesting where it’s like, ‘Oh, if you’re going to get traded, you got to get traded at this level, but if we’re going to keep you, we’re going to keep you down here at this level.'”

He’s right. The Chargers valued him enough to want a good return for him in a trade. But they also don’t want to give him the kind of contract he is seeking.

Ultimately, it will be on the NFL Players Association to force a change. The big problem with running backs is that their career paths are the inverse of other players, which means the system that benefits many of the league’s other players works against them.

Running backs tend to be at their peak their first few years in the league, before they get worn down by all the hits and injuries they sustain. Players at other positions tend to need a few years of seasoning before reaching their best, which is why free agency comes at a fine time for them. Players at every other position tend to have longer career spans too compared to running backs.

The system would best benefit running backs if they were subject to much shorter rookie deals, because the current length of rookie deals hurt that position in a way it doesn’t hurt others.

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