Austin Ekeler might have requested a trade from the Los Angeles Chargers, but he’s still open to returning to the team. In an appearance on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast, posted Monday, Ekeler clarified his feelings on the Chargers and his trade request.
“I think it’s really important to put it out there that it’s not like, ‘Oh, I hate the Chargers, and I need to get out of this organization, and I need to leave,'” Ekeler said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. I would like to stay if it was under the right circumstances.”
Ekeler made his request on March 13 after long-term extension talks with the team fell through. One day later, the Chargers reportedly granted his request.
“Obviously, I have one more year on my contract there, so I’m contractually obligated to play for them for this upcoming year,” Ekeler told Long. “So, we’re in a situation where it’s like, look, we have no guarantees or anything like that this year, so kind of in a spot where I’ve been outplaying my contract, and we might have an opportunity to go seek out other options that can bring me up.”
There’s no doubt Ekeler has outperformed his contract and status as an undrafted free agent thus far. The Pro Bowl running back is due just $6.25 million and carries a cap charge of $7.75 million for this coming season.
That’s not a lot of money for a player who had 107 catches for 722 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns last season. Ekeler also ran for 915 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Ekeler knows his production is good enough to earn a long-term contract with another team, so he’s trying to take advantage of it while he can.
“I feel like there’s no timeline on it,” Ekeler said. “I’m so underpaid right now as far as my contract and what I contribute to the team; it’s like, I am relentlessly pursuing this. I want to get something long-term done. I want a team that wants me long-term. I’m at the peak of my game, right? As long as I’m healthy, I’m gonna score you another 20 touchdowns. I’m gonna have, you know, another 1,600 all-purpose yards. I’m getting half my value of what I could be getting. I am relentlessly pursuing someone who wants me for the long term.”
Most Receiving Yards, RB (2018-2022)
As for the Chargers, they brought in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore this offseason to help make the offense more dynamic. Mike Martz, an analyst for The 33rd Team, believes Moore might be another reason Ekeler wants to leave.
“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.”
Although Ekeler said there’s no deadline for a trade, if the Chargers want to get something for him this season, they’ll have to make a move before the 2023 NFL Draft.