Los Angeles Chargers Have "No Interest" in Trading Star Running Back

The Los Angeles Chargers are trying to build a deep and talented offense around their young franchise quarterback Justin Herbert, and they're in no hurry to part ways with its most productive player. Appearing on The Rich Eisen Show Tuesday, general manager Tom Telesco reasserted that the Chargers have "no interest" in trading running back Austin Ekeler.

"Nothing's changed," Telesco said via NFL.com. "His situation is unique. I completely understand that which is why we kind of allowed them to kind of look and see if there was anything out there. We had no intent, no interest of trading him, but fully knowing his situation to go ahead and do it."

Ekeler requested a trade earlier this offseason, citing his relatively low pay. He's currently set to earn $6.25 million in salary in the final year of a four-year, $24.5 million extension signed in March of 2020. Unfortunately for him, that unfavorable contract is part of what makes him a real asset to the Chargers, one they're rightly none too eager to part with.

Ekeler is one of the most productive players in football and is right to believe he's outperformed his current deal. He is an efficient, punishing runner and one of the league's very best receivers out of the backfield. He led the league in total touchdowns in each of the past two years and even set a franchise record for receptions in 2022. He's the ideal back for today's modern, pass-heavy NFL.

Unfortunately, smart franchises don't make a habit of paying for past production, particularly at running back. Ekeler is set to turn 28 years old this season. Despite setting a personal best in yards from scrimmage this past season (1637), the Chargers are probably skeptical he can be similarly productive beyond 2023. It's in their best interest to let him play out the final year of his deal at his current bargain rate. If he excels, they'll likely be more than happy to slap a relatively affordable franchise tag on him for 2024, and they'd probably be willing to do it all over again in 2025 if need be.

Obviously, that doesn't suit Ekeler. But that's life for running backs in the NFL. Given his short shelf life and the frosty market his position typically enjoys, he simply doesn't have the leverage to cash in. Unless someone makes the Chargers an offer they can't refuse, he's likely stuck where he is.   

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