“Chargers–They Have Options”
The full roster is checking into the Chargers preseason camp, heading towards what could be their best season in years.
All except one player, a key player in their offense.
Melvin Gordon won’t be there. The star running back is holding out. His agent is threatening a boycott of the entire preseason, but possibly also into the season.
For a team that fashions itself ready to be a potential Super Bowl team, this has the potential to be a big blow.
This is not like an injury situation. Not a week in concussion protocol, or a couple of weeks with an ankle sprain. This is significant, if it drags into the season, or eats up a lot of the season.
Gordon is in the final years of his contract, due to pay him 5.6M this final season of the deal. He has outplayed the contract, considering his productivity.
The landscape of the NFL has changed. Teams are facing salary cap issues they never imagined. Every contract upgrade for a key player now becomes a request for the highest paying contract for a player at that position.
In a span of 11-months, Todd Gurley signed a 63M-package with the Rams after 3-strong seasons. Le’Veon Bell’s banner seasons in Pittsburgh, keyed by a year long holdout, saw him get 13.4M a year with the Jets. David Johnson, despite playing on a bad Cardinals team, is earning 13M also.
Gordon reportedly wants 14M a year, a high water mark, for a pretty diverse-explosive-productive player.
Seldom has a player gotten a contract that would take his salary nearly 3X more than he made the prior year.
There’s not doubt his value to the Chargers. A combined (5,205) all purpose yards, run and catch. He’s touched the ball (1,089) times in those four years. He’s averaged (5.1Y) per carry rushing last year, and (9.8) yards per catch.
Gordon is explosive, wants to be on the field all the time, has made himself a special productive standout. He’s also been banged up, 4-injuries over the last couple of years, but once back on the field, his productivity never wavered.
Yes the Chargers have people who have produced at that position. Austin Ekeler is coming off a career best season (554Y) rushing…(404Y) receiving and 6-touchdowns. But Eckeler has shown he’s more Darren Sproles-Danny Woodhead, than he is a true big time star.
Young back Justin Jackson, a surprise out of Northwestern, had (331) all purpose yards, including Gordon like numbers (4.1) yards per carry and (9.1) yards per catch. But that’s a small sample size.
Even fourth teamer Dextraze Newsome out of Western Carolina, had cameo appearance numbers you had to like (4.5-9.5) in mop up duty. And that’s in a microscopic amount of time.
But over the long haul of a season, it’s hard to project what any of then would do if Gordon were never not he field. None of them are the proven product Gordon is.
The Chargers have options, but some are not very appealing.
They could play ‘hardball’ with the football. Tell Gordon he owes them this season on the contract, and they won’t give him an immediate upgrade. That would be unfair.
They could give him a state of the art update, an increase next year to 8M, followed by 10M and then 12M in year three. Because of the wear and tear factor on running backs who do what Gordon does, maybe three years is the max. But it does not get him to 14M a season, the intended goal.
Gordon doesn’t have a lot of leverage. If he sits out games, he loses 330,000 a week in game-checks, money he never recoups. If he holds out till week 10, he has to report, having lost all that money, and maybe losing the lockeroom, but plays to get credit for his final year of the contract.
He cannot sit out the season, because he would still owe the Chargers a year on his deal then in 2020.
If he comes in and plays this year of the deal at the assigned (5.6M), the Chargers would franchise tag him next year, at probably 14.5M for the 2020 campaign. But that brings risk of anger, resentment. No signing bonus, no longterm security.
The only other option might take ‘brass’ to do. Trade him.
The Chargers would have to be sold though that they had the right running backs on the roster to replace Gordon. There’s a huge difference watching Gordon get all those yards and TDs against quality defenses, vs the backups making an occasional big play against a tired defense or in garbage time.
The Chargers would have to ask for a 1st round draft pick from a team that wants a quality running back, who could be a difference maker in a playoff run. Maybe New England, the 49ers, Green Bay or Houston.
A season long holdout helps no one, not the player, surely not the team.
Chargers holdouts have hindered this team for years, but maybe Gordon needs to be the exception to the rule. The team is so close to being so good, could they afford to take a ‘step back’ at a critical position in the Philip Rivers led offense.
The window to do this, go deep into the playoffs, won’t be open much longer with the star QB about to turn 37. And a running back headed to year five of his career, with lots of carries-touches-hits-injuries, may not be as productive for the long run either.
The Chargers have options. Gordon has few. Interesting to see who makes the right decision, who makes the wrong decision, in the next couple of weeks going forward.
The Chargers open camp, Gordon won’t gee there. He invokes his option, the team will then think about invoking theirs.