Melvin Gordon told the Chargers he wants a new contract, particularly after feeling the Chargers most recent offer was "disrespectful." ESPN was first to report that if Gordon doesn't get a new deal he won't report to training camp and will demand a trade.
I don't blame you if you're having flashbacks to Le'Veon Bell's contract situation last year.
We know Gordon is an annual candidate for 1,500 total yards and a ton of touchdowns with excellent consistency. We also know Gordon has a history of knee injuries along with hip and hamstring strains that have kept him from playing every game in three of his four NFL seasons. Gordon is 26 years old and has 923 carries and 184 catches over his career.
Per OverTheCap.com, the Chargers have $10 million in cap space now and $54 million in cap space in 2020. That's not a ton. And not only is Gordon in a contract year, but so are Philip Rivers, Hunter Henry, Travis Benjamin, center Mike Pouncey, linebacker Jatavis Brown and guard Michael Schofield. Running back Austin Ekeler will also be a restricted free agent.
Could they afford him? Probably. Do they want to? The Chargers' track record says probably not.
It was current GM Tom Telesco who drafted Gordon with a first-round pick back in 2015 to replace Ryan Mathews after a series of injuries. Mathews was 27 with 941 rushes and 148 receptions through five years.
It was also the Chargers who drafted Mathews with a first-round pick back in 2010 to replace LaDainian Tomlinson after he showed signs of slowing down. Tomlinson was 30 but was a franchise legend. Telesco wasn't part of the front office then but did say when he was hired in 2013 that he would make sure the Chargers would be driven by the draft.
Unless Gordon accepts a team-friendly contract, which seems unlikely considering he was upset with their most recent offer, signs point to some sort of standoff.
Gordon has minimal, if any, leverage. If he sits out the entire year, his contract tolls and he's still part of the Chargers in 2020. He gains nothing but a lot of rest and another year on his age. If he sits out until the league-minimum six games to qualify for free agency (as Vincent Jackson once did with the Chargers), then the Chargers would just go on without him until he comes back. Theoretically, that would be Week 11 against the Chiefs.
Both of these scenarios cripple his Fantasy value for obvious reasons. Both are also beneficial to the Chargers' financial situation, but they'd need some sort of answer at running back.
That's where Gordon has some leverage. However, the team went 4-0 without Gordon last year with Justin Jackson scoring two rushing touchdowns and Ekeler adding another. Gordon doesn't have the franchise tag to fall back on as Bell did and probably won't have it next year either given the new contracts the Chargers will dole out.
Furthermore, the running back market might not be what Gordon thinks it is. Todd Gurley got his massive four-year contract extension worth $45 million guaranteed when he was 24 years old. David Johnson got his when he was 27, but it was for three years and $25 million guaranteed. Gordon compared himself to these players when talking about his contract situation in June but added that he "knew his value."
Bottom line: unless Gordon uses Bell's holdout as a road map to get a new deal, he should play. Of course, we said the same thing about Bell last August.
A trade would only be in play if another team pays Gordon what he thinks he's worth. The Buccaneers would be an amazing landing spot for Gordon but the Bucs are hurting for cap space right now. The Texans, among others, have the cap space, but do they really have the need? And which of these teams will give up desirable compensation for a 26-year-old back with a lengthy injury history?
I'd like to think Gordon will either play out his current deal or accept an offer similar to Johnson's, but until it happens, I can't recommend drafting him in Round 1. If Gordon were to fall to me in Round 2, then I'd consider taking a chance on him.
When Gordon missed time last year, Ekeler and Jackson teamed up to handle the run game. They were decent -- Ekeler had one nice game and Jackson had two. Both have appeal after 100th overall in drafts, but Ekeler seems locked into a part-time role whether Gordon plays or not. Jackson, who is more of a bruiser, could see the biggest change in workload if Gordon's gone.
It also goes without saying that the Chargers' entire offense could operate a lot differently without Gordon. Rivers might have to throw more, and short-area targets like Hunter Henry could help replace the run game. More touchdowns could become available to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. All of these Bolts would become more popular if Gordon goes missing and isn't replaced.