Running back Austin Ekeler has requested permission from the Chargers to speak with other teams about a trade, Ekeler’s agent Cameron Weiss told ESPN on Monday.
Ekeler is entering the last year of his contract and was engaged with the Chargers about an extension, but talks didn’t go far. The Pro Bowl running back is due $6.25 million and carries a cap charge of $7.75 million in 2023, making him an easy asset to trade.
The Chargers hired Kellen Moore to be their offensive coordinator last month. It’s no secret Moore is a big fan of the passing game, something Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy made known upon Moore’s exit from Dallas.
“He’s a guy who wants to just flat-out pass the football,” said The 33rd Team’s Mike Martz. “The running game’s kind of an afterthought for him, always has been. Whether that’s good or bad, doesn’t really make a difference.
“But if you’re Austin Ekeler, and you’ve always had a vital role in the offense — not just as a rusher, but with different routes, and particularly in the red zone where he’s so dynamic — he’s probably had a vision of what’s going to happen offensively there, and he’s probably not a part of that vision.”
The former undrafted free agent has been a consistent part of the Chargers’ offense in recent years. He had 107 catches for 722 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns last season. He also ran for 915 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Ekeler helped carry the Chargers’ passing game at times last season when top wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams were out with injuries.
The 2022 season was the second consecutive in which Ekeler has run for at least 900 yards. He’s eclipsed 400 yards receiving in four out of his six NFL seasons.
Ekeler should have a competitive market if the Chargers grant his request. Top free-agent options like Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs are under the franchise tag, and Ekeler’s low cap hit might make him cheaper than other free agent options such as Jamaal Williams.