Austin Ekeler called out the Los Angeles Chargers for unequal negotiations between his agent and the teams they were in talks to trade the star running back to this offseason.
Ekeler’s comments are a part of this week’s greater conversation about the value of running backs in the NFL. Only three players are subject to play under the franchise tag this season: Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, and Josh Jacobs.
Elite running backs are reaching out to each other in a “text chain” on how they might handle the issue. The current NFL collective bargaining agreement is active through 2030. Players have been venting their frustrations to the media and on social media.
NFL News: Austin Ekeler calls out the Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler, who asked for a trade from the Chargers this spring because he believes his contract is unfair, recently opened up on the team’s hypocrisy. Ekeler was a guest on The Zach Gelb Show and said the Chargers wanted a high price for a trade but were unwilling to pay Ekeler the value of the trade:
“No, and that’s because I came with a lot of baggage,” Ekeler said. “You were going to have to trade some high picks for me. The Chargers, they weren’t going to let me go for anything that wasn’t up there, so they saw my value there.
It’s funny how when they allow me the trade, they’re like, ‘OK, but we want you to get these types of picks,’ which were not low picks, ‘but we’re not going to pay you like you’re that type of player.’ So, it’s kind of interesting where it’s like, ‘Oh, if you’re going to get traded, you got to get traded at this level, but if we’re going to keep you, we’re going to keep you down here at this level.’
“You can see for them it makes sense because they’re getting the best of both worlds there. They have the leverage, and so that’s why it was tough for me to get anything out there or get a new contract where you’re going to have to give up high picks and also restructure my contract. That’s just being transparent on my situation.”
Look, it’s clear that running backs have value in the NFL. There’s a reason teams are using their limited franchise tag availability to drive the price down for elite running backs artificially. Ekeler’s insight into trade negotiations is another example of how front offices understand their players’ worth.
But NFL owners have successfully lobbied to keep the free market from doing its work in the running back room.
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