Austin Ekeler expects ‘new aura’ for Chargers in 2020, wants Melvin Gordon to get paid

Austin Ekeler appears set to take over the Los Angeles Chargers’ backfield heading into the new decade, as he signed a four-year contract worth $24.5 million last week. The former undrafted free agent finished with 1,550 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns in 2019. A large majority of those totals came via the receiving game, as he caught 92 of his 108 targets (85.2 catch percentage) for 993 yards and eight scores. 

The contract extension meant everything to Ekeler, as an NFL team had finally opened up their checkbook to tell him that he’s a legitimate starting running back in this league.

“It meant a lot to me, just because this is the team that, I guess, took a chance with me as an undrafted free agent,” Ekeler said, via “After my third year, I became restricted and they could’ve tendered me and said, ‘OK, good luck on the open market.’ But they showed that ‘Hey, you’re our guy. We want you on this team.'”

With this signing, it marked the unofficial end of Melvin Gordon’s time in Los Angeles. The two-time Pro Bowler held out earlier this season for a new deal, which allowed Ekeler an opportunity to shine. Once he did, it became unlikely that the Chargers would dish out big money for Gordon in the future — and now with the news of Ekeler’s new contract — it looks like Gordon will hit the open market. Ekeler wants Gordon to get paid, however, as he knows that it would benefit running backs further down the line. 

“For me as a player in the NFL, we need Melvin to get paid,” Ekeler said. “Cause the market for running backs is a lot lower than any other market as far as pay and things like that. It’s a double-edged sword. We want him here, but we always want him to get paid. Especially as a running back — and all the other running backs — we need some people to set the market, the Pro Bowl guys need to set the market.”

“We need Derrick Henry. We need those guys to get paid.”

The changing of the guard at running back is not the only change the Chargers will undergo this offseason. They also announced in February that they would be moving on from longtime quarterback Philip Rivers and traded away left tackle Russell Okung. This will truly be a new-look Chargers team in 2020, but it’s something Ekeler is embracing. 

“It really is [going to be different],” Ekeler said. “I was actually talking to our [general manager], Tom Telesco. And he’s just like, ‘There’s gonna be a new aura around the Chargers next year.’ [Antonio] Gates is gone — retired. Philip, who’s been there forever — these guys that have been there forever are starting to move out. You know one of our leaders, Russell Okung, he’s going over to the Panthers, so we’ve lost a lot of our leadership that we used to have. And that’s new opportunities for guys to step up. And we’re moving to a new stadium, as well.

“There’s a lot more new opportunities for guys to step up on the team. I’m looking forward to this year as far as that aspect, as far as getting this team going, because now I’ve been here a little bit and put in some work and continued to climb.”

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