Melvin Gordon Rumors: Free Agent May Have to Settle for RB-by-Committee Role

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IMarch 18, 2020

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

When Melvin Gordon III stretched a holdout from the Los Angeles Chargers throughout the preseason and the first three weeks of the regular season in 2019, he likely did not envision that his role would be diminished for the 2020 season.

But ESPN's Jeff Darlington said on Wednesday's SportsCenter that the 26-year-old running back "may have to settle" for a running-back-by-committee role on his next team (h/t EstablishTheRun.com's Evan Silva).

Earlier Wednesday, Yahoo Sports' Terez Paylor reported that "about four teams" are in the running to sign Gordon. "Teams were anticipating more cap space so the structure of the deal—and getting creative—will go a long way here," he wrote.

There has been buzz all week surrounding where Gordon might suit up in 2020:

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Dolphins are targeting Melvin Gordon and have interest in bringing in the veteran RB "at the right price," per @CameronWolfe https://t.co/eHPIkFLRMc

FantasyPros @FantasyPros

Melvin Gordon liked a tweet about Tom Brady joining the Bucs. The Bucs could use a running back. Melvin Gordon is a running back. He’s also a free agent. Just sayin’ ... https://t.co/g0vzhwIMWj

Michael Fabiano @Michael_Fabiano

Melvin Gordon’s market shrunk a bit more today. It’s down to Atlanta, Miami or Tampa Bay if he’s to see a true featured role in 2020. Those teams might fill backfield voids in the draft.

The Chargers committed to running back Austin Ekeler with a reported four-year deal worth $24.5 million earlier this month:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

#Chargers RB Austin Ekeler on his new four-year, $24.5 million deal — a big payday for a guy who originally signed for $5,000 as a UDFA in 2017. https://t.co/178gh7uaZn

Ekeler shined to start 2019 during Gordon's holdout.

The 24-year-old rushed for 58 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries and caught six balls for 96 yards and two touchdowns in L.A.'s regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Overall in Gordon's absence, Ekeler posted 220 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to go along with 270 yards and three touchdowns through the air across the Chargers' first four games.

Ekeler finished last season with 557 yards and three touchdowns on 132 carries alongside 993 yards and eight touchdowns on 92 catches in 16 games. Gordon posted 612 yards and eight touchdowns on 162 carries with 296 yards and one touchdown as a receiver across 12 games.

The Dolphins were reportedly targeting Gordon earlier this week, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday that they are signing ex-Philadelphia Eagles rusher Jordan Howard on a two-year deal worth $10 million-plus.

Atlanta doesn't appear to be keen on making Gordon a featured back, either.

"You can scratch running back Melvin Gordon and linebacker Markus Golden off the list," D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday. "Agents for both of those players told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they have not heard from the Falcons."

The Buccaneers could fit now that they have made their quarterback move, agreeing with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady on a contract.

Gordon told reporters after he ended his holdout that he was "definitely motivated" because "no one cared that Melvin Gordon was out." He also told CBS Sports' Adam Schein during Super Bowl week in late January that the holdout was "not really" worth it "because I didn't gain anything from it":

Gordon will presumably be even more motivated now to prove his worth as a primary back.

The Chargers selected Gordon 15th overall in 2015. The Wisconsin product rushed for 4,240 yards and 36 touchdowns across 67 games as a Charger, including one 1,000-yard rushing season (2017) and two 10-touchdown campaigns (2016, '18).