Melvin Gordon free agency 2020: Top landing spots, projected contract, latest updates, rumors and more


Things were quite duplicitous in the NFL in 2019 when it came to valuing running backs. On one hand, the league saw Ezekiel Elliott opt to hold out of Dallas Cowboys training camp in a push for a contract extension, and he got his wish when the club made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. Elliott never missed a single game, but the same couldn’t be said for Melvin Gordon, who attempted the same flex with the Los Angeles Chargers — only to discover his muscle wasn’t nearly as big as Elliott’s, value-wise.

The two holdouts might’ve occurred at the same time by two players of the same position, but they were never truly comparable, and for a variety of reasons. For starters, Elliott is a two-time NFL rushing champ who resides with a team whose offense is designed around him, whereas the Chargers were still very much Philip Rivers’ team until 2020. 

In the end, Gordon’s holdout extended through Week 4 and eventually saw the Chargers slam the door shut on continued negotiations, instead choosing to lean heavily on backup Austin Ekeler. As Ekeler began to produce at a promising click, the pressure was on Gordon to get back on the field and reassert himself going into NFL free agency. 

Now that it is upon him, we can take a look at who’ll likely give him a call, and if his brand has been rebuilt following an ill-advised absence last season. 

Top landing spots for Gordon

True, Gordon did his personal brand no favors in how he handled the 2019 season, but there are still clubs who need a definitive starting running back who’s proven himself at the NFL level, and Gordon certainly offers that. He’s not a Tier-A halfback like who’ll command top dollar like Derrick Henry, but he does have a body of work others in the Tier-B realm can’t boast. 

And as far as who’ll likely give Gordon a call, as odd as it sounds, you can probably put the Chargers atop the list. 

Despite the rift between the two sides to begin the 2019 season, Gordon has publicly stated in 2020 he’d like to return to Los Angeles on a new deal, and the fact he’s now said it more than once gives the Chargers leverage in any potential negotiations. With Austin Ekeler being a restricted free agent, the Chargers can decide to retain Ekeler and re-sign Gordon, to do the latter but not the former, or to let both walk — possibly gaining a draft pick for Ekeler in the process. It’s unlikely they’ll walk away from both, and having Gordon back at a price not far from their original offer isn’t impossible and downright plausible.

The Dolphins will want to insert themselves into the conversation though and in a big way. They traded away Kenyan Drake to the Arizona Cardinals and went on to find themselves struggling mightily at RB, with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the team in rushing yards last season. A dominant running back will be paramount to the success of whoever calls signals in 2020 in South Florida, making Gordon a perfect fit for the team. 

  1. Chargers
  2. Dolphins
  3. Eagles
  4. Bucs
  5. Lions

Honorable Mention: Bills

Heck, the Dolphins might go harder at Gordon than anyone on this list, but the Chargers have “home field advantage” and Gordon’s recent PR Valentine’s cards, if you will.

The Dolphins are expected to have competition from their compatriots in Central Florida, however, considering Peyton Barber is no longer under contract and — if Jameis Winston is re-signed — the Buccaneers wouldn’t mind using Gordon as a means of decreasing the frequency in which Winston needs to throw the ball. Creating a one-two punch of Gordon and Ronald Jones might do the trick, in that regard, but the Philadelphia Eagles might be thinking something similar. With Jordan Howard potentially not returning, Gordon could do damage with the shifty Miles Sanders, and go a long way to making sure Carson Wentz actually finishes a season. 

Lesser but still quite likely are the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills, who need to shore up the position in a big way, unless the Lions want to hang the health of Matthew Stafford on a run game fueled by Kerryon Johnson — who’s landed on injured reserve in both of his NFL seasons — and the potential of Bo Scarbrough, a former sixth-round pick who had just one touchdown in 2019. 

That’s doubtful, so pencil in Detroit and Buffalo as suitors, because Frank Gore isn’t expected to stare down father time yet again following the 2020 season.

Projected market value for Gordon in free agency

Gordon battled rust in his Week 5 return and mostly stumbled to a career-worst 612-yard season — he failed to score a touchdown in six of his 12 games last season. This will keep his price on the open market from mushrooming to a degree teams find unpalatable, but his nine touchdowns from scrimmage did reassert his brand — as much as it could. It was reported the Chargers initially offered Gordon a deal that averaged around $10 million per year, but he waved it off, and the rest is history. One year later, the market has played a bit more in his favor, and his value sits at roughly $11.7 million annually — per Spotrac — and that’s commensurate more with his total body of work and the fact he’s the top-ranking free agent RB this offseason.

The only question now is who’ll come close to that figure or exceed it to land his services in 2020. He sounds willing to give some sort of leniency to the Chargers in negotiations, but that will change quickly if one of the other suitors swoops in with an offer he simply can’t refuse — and considering he plays a position that doesn’t have a great shelf life in the NFL.

This might literally be his final chance to cash in, and that’s just the reality of the business.

Projection

Scouting report on Gordon (pros and cons):

Pros:

  • Power back with finesse
  • Great overall athleticism (former track & fielder)
  • Solid hands as a receiver out of the backfield
  • High football IQ
  • Good quickness and burst out of cuts
  • Resume includes two Pro Bowl nods

Cons

  • Average straight-line speed
  • Disappears at times in games
  • No NFL suspensions on record

Hall of Famer predicts Gordon lands with Dolphins in 2020

Thursday, Feb. 20: There’s a reason or two the Dolphins marrying Gordon would make perfect sense, and while I’ve pointed them out above, Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson put his own on the table in a recent interview with NFL Network. If the Dolphins, who fielded a team without a single RB posting more than 201 yards rushing, don’t reach out to Gordon — throw the whole franchise away.

Gordon expects to be back with Chargers

Thursday, Feb. 20: The more he speaks, the more it appears Gordon is truly hellbent on staying put in Los Angeles. That would obviously have to be at a price point he approves but, realistically speaking, he’s lowing his price with every utterance of just how much he loves the team and wants to re-sign. They’ll use it in their favor, as teams tend to do, much to the dismay of Gordon’s agent — who did him no favors by advising a holdout in the first place.

Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry set to frame RB free agency market

Thursday, Feb. 6: It’s a fairly robust market this offseason at the running back position, and while it’s nowhere near comparable to that of the quarterbacks, Gordon will have some stiff competition in finding another team that isn’t the Chargers. Henry and McCaffrey aside, there are several Tier-B talents like Gordon who need to locate a new home as well, and all of this matters when trying to determine his asking price. 

Gordon ‘hopefully’ still with Chargers in 2020

Thursday, Jan. 30: Not long after the regular season ended, Gordon began championing his want of remaining with the Chargers, who gave head coach Anthony Lynn a short extension and waved goodbye to eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers. With Rivers gone and the team eyeing their future at that position in the 2020 NFL Draft, stability is much needed wherever it can be had, and keeping Gordon around makes sense. That is, of course, if they don’t believe Ekeler will do just fine instead, and at a much lower cost.





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