Chargers’ Austin Ekeler details failed trade talks in tough RB market: ‘I came with a lot of baggage’


As the deadline for franchise-tagged players to reach agreements on new contracts came and went on Monday, three high-profile running backs — Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Josh Jacobs — were left without new deals.

Frustrated with the tag deadline’s lackluster results, players around the league decided to share their thoughts, including Chargers running back Austin Ekeler.

The 28-year-old dealt with his own offseason negotiations after requesting permission in March to explore trade options. Ekeler’s contract impasse with Los Angeles ended in May when he agreed to a revised contract with added incentives.

When asked Monday if he was ever close to leaving the Bolts, Ekeler opened up about how difficult it actually is for a top running back to seek a trade.

“No, and that’s because I came with a lot of baggage,” Ekeler told Zach Gelb on CBS Sports Radio. “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, yeah, 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.”

During his 2022 campaign, Ekeler rushed for 915 yards and scored 13 rushing touchdowns (the most in his career). He also recorded 722 receiving yards, along with five receiving scores. The Chargers RB led the league in total TDs (18) for the second straight season.

As he is set to start his seventh year with the Bolts, Ekeler has been very open and honest about his feelings about the current RB market. However, that does not take away from what he was able to get settled while the offseason was in full swing.

“Look, I signed my four-year deal,” Ekeler said. “I am very thankful to have another opportunity to continue to play. I’m going to go out there and play at another high level again. But now there’s just more pressure on me because I have no guarantees, and I will be a free agent after this year unless something gets done during the year, which could be a possibility.”

The future is uncertain when it comes to the running back market, but at least for one more season, fans can see Ekeler in powder blue.