NFL Trade Rumors: Austin Ekeler Requests Deal After Failed Chargers Contract Talks

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMarch 13, 2023

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 14: Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up prior to a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at TIAA Bank Field on January 14, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)
Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

Star running back Austin Ekeler has requested permission from the Los Angeles Chargers to talk to other teams about a trade, his agent said Monday.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Cameron Weiss said the request was made when contract extension negotiations failed to progress.

It is not known if the Chargers intend to grant the request.

Since signing with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Western Colorado in 2017, Ekeler has developed into one of the most explosive and versatile running backs and offensive weapons in football.

Ekeler broke out in 2019 when he rushed for 557 yards and three touchdowns while setting what were career highs with 92 receptions for 993 yards and eight scores.

He missed six games the next season, but Ekeler has been a touchdown machine in each of the past two campaigns.

In 2021, Ekeler rushed for 911 yards and caught 70 passes for 647 yards. He led the league with 20 touchdowns from scrimmage.

He was just as good last season, rushing for a career-high 915 yards and catching a career-high 107 passes. He also racked up 722 receiving yards and once again led the NFL in touchdowns with 18.

Ekeler has become quarterback Justin Herbert's preferred safety valve in the passing game, and he has been paramount in Herbert's development into one of the NFL's top signal-callers.

In 2020, the Bolts signed Ekeler to a four-year, $24.5 million contract extension, which concludes at the end of the 2023 season. He has undoubtedly outplayed that contract and likely earned a bigger one this time around.

Ekeler will turn 28 in May, and since most running backs tend to slow down by the age of 30, this may represent his last chance to land a significant deal.

Given his ability as a pass-catcher, Ekeler is more than a run-of-the-mill running back, and it is possible there is a disconnect between the two sides with Ekeler wanting to be paid accordingly.

Top running backs aren't paid as much as top wide receivers, so it would make sense for Ekeler to seek a contract that treats him more like a hybrid player than a back.

The Chargers are not obligated to trade Ekeler since he is under contract, and given his importance to the offense, it is tough to imagine L.A. will move him unless he threatens to hold out and not play in 2023.