There are a number of things working against Melvin Gordon as he holds out of training camp in search of a new contract from the Los Angeles Chargers. For one, NFL teams are becoming increasingly wary of giving megadeals to running backs considering their injury risk, and Gordon has missed time because of various knee ailments in three of his four NFL seasons (he missed four games last season, and the Chargers went 4-0 in those games). For another, NFL teams are running the ball less than ever before (25.9 attempts per game last season, the lowest mark in NFL history) and Gordon’s much cheaper backups (mainly Austin Ekeler but also Justin Jackson) had a comparable or better level of production in the Fancy Stat department last season.
Throw in the fact that the Chargers’ brass has been disinclined to hand out precedent-setting contracts, and Gordon doesn’t have too much leverage. Now his management team is following through on a promise made weeks ago: It has requested that the Chargers trade Gordon to a team that will give him the contract he wants.
Damarius Bilbo, Gordon’s agent, revealed that plan to ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Thursday, telling her he made that request to the Chargers last week. General Manager Tom Telesco responded by calling Gordon “family” but did not give his representatives permission to seek trading partners, meaning we’re back where we started, with Gordon holding out and the Chargers apparently not budging on his demands. According to Yahoo’s Charles Robinson, the two sides are $2 million to $3 million apart in terms of annual salary, a significant chasm.
Bilbo successfully pulled off a similar tactic last year with Jarvis Landry, as Anderson pointed out, persuading the Miami Dolphins to trade Landry to the Cleveland Browns, who promptly gave the wide receiver a new five-year, $75.5 million contract with $47 million guaranteed.
The trick, obviously, is finding a team that is willing to give up something in return for Gordon and then also give the running back a contract that will make him happy.
Gordon, who’s 26 and in the final year of his rookie contract, is scheduled to make $5.6 million this season. Robinson reported that the back is looking for something along the lines of the extension given to Cardinals running back David Johnson last September (three years, $39 million, $30 million guaranteed). The Chargers are thinking more along the lines of the five-year extension given by the Falcons to Devonta Freeman in 2017 (five years, $41.25 million, $22 million guaranteed), though they almost certainly would go a little higher than that.
Just because the Chargers won’t let Gordon’s agent seek out a trade himself doesn’t mean the team isn’t quietly shopping him around. The Steelers, for instance, wouldn’t let wide receiver Antonio Brown seek trading partners yet still dealt him to the Raiders in March (Oakland also gave Brown a contract extension). Both sides may be waiting to see what the Cowboys do with running back Ezekiel Elliott, who’s also holding out. They also might be waiting for the inevitable preseason injuries to occur elsewhere, giving another team greater incentive to trade. But for now, the stalemate continues.
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