Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said last week that he was confident in the depth that the team had at running back behind Melvin Gordon, who has held out of Training Camp in hopes of forcing the team’s hand on a new contract.
We may find out just how good the Chargers can be without Gordon in 2019.
Gordon’s agent, Damarius Bilbo, told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he informed Chargers general manager Tom Telesco last that the 26-year-old would like to be traded if what his camp deems to be an acceptable offer isn’t forthcoming.
Per Anderson, Telesco said that Gordon, a 2015 first-round pick, is “still family.” That, along with the fact that the Chargers didn’t allow Bilbo to pursue potential suitors for Gordon, suggests that the team still hopes to retain Gordon.
Anderson suggests, however, that the Chargers have put an offer on the table to Gordon that would pay him in the neighborhood of $10 million annually. Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports said last week that the Chargers hope to give Gordon a deal that would allow him to make more money than Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, who makes an average annual value of $8.25 million as part of the five-year/$41.25 million deal that Freeman signed ahead of the 2017 season. This offer would seemingly do that.
Of course, Gordon appears to be aiming higher than the Chargers are, with Robinson noting that he’s looking more at Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson’s three-year/$39 million deal as a baseline. Johnson will be the highest paid running back in the NFL in 2019, so it’s not surprising that Gordon’s camp views that deal as a better comp.
Gordon, 26, is a two-time Pro Bowler that has scored 38 touchdowns in four seasons in the NFL. Though his best season from a yards perspective came in 2017, Gordon set a new career-high with 5.1 yards-per-carry in 2018 and also caught 50 passes for 490 yards in 12 games.
Anthony Lynn guided the Chargers to a 12-4 record in 2018, which was only good enough to win a Wild Card spot in the AFC because the Kansas City Chiefs also went 12-4 and won the AFC West. The Chargers defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Wild Card round, before falling to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots a round later.
The Chargers have Super Bowl aspirations in 2019, ones that would obviously be more realistic with Gordon in the fold. However, Rivers was correct in saying that the Chargers have strong depth behind him. Austin Eckler averaged 5.4 yards per carry and ran for 554 yards in 2018. Justin Jackson also averaged over four yards per carry in his rookie season a year ago.
Gordon is the second most noteworthy running back holding out of Training Camp this year, with Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott yet to report either. The difference between the two is that Gordon can become a free-agent after the 2019 season, so he’s perhaps more motivated to play this year and assure he accrues his final year towards free-agency, whereas Elliott can’t become a free-agent for two more years.
Le’Veon Bell sat out the entire 2018 season after the Pittsburgh Steelers placed the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year. The Steelers could have placed the tag on Bell again because he didn’t play, but ultimately decided to allow him to become a free-agent, where he signed a four-year/$52.5 million deal with the New York Jets that guarantees him $35 million.