Sunday, September 24 2023

The “worst-case scenario” for Austin Ekeler in his contract dispute with the Los Angeles Chargers is if he’s still with the team at the start of the 2023 season.

Ekeler was brutally honest about his feelings toward the only team he’s ever played for when he discussed his desire for a new contract in an interview with SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio on Tuesday. The running back shared how he felt when the Chargers rebuked his request to open extension talks, which led to Ekeler requesting a trade in March.

“I kind of got punched in the face when the Chargers basically said we don’t want to talk about extensions anymore,” Ekeler said. “This is an organization I continue to rise and hit new heights in. That’s how it felt. It felt like, wow. This was the first time in my career with them I felt disrespected by my own organization. It sucks. I want to be a Charger. I want to be a Charger. I want to be there and it sucks because it’s like, let’s get something done.”

Ekeler is entering the final year of a four-year, $24.5 million deal and he believes the reality has set in that his time in Los Angeles is going to end soon.

“For them to want to allow me to be a free agent next year, maybe we’ll get something done throughout the year, who knows how it’s going to play out, but that’s how I’m feeling right now,” Ekeler said. “We don’t have insight into how they’re thinking because they’re just like, ‘Nah, we don’t want to talk anymore.'”

The Chargers gave Ekeler permission to find a trade partner when extension talks broke down in March around the start of the new league year. That’s where he said his focus is now — and he’d prefer it’s with a team that wants him for more than just the 2023 season. 

“When it comes down to what’s going on with the whole trade and all that stuff, really, look, we’re trying to find a long-term partner,” Ekeler said. “That’s what we want. We want someone who wants to sign us for a few years and sees us not just in the immediate future, but a couple years out. Once everything halted with the Chargers, alright, it was time to go and see if we can find value somewhere else because they just kind of showed that they weren’t interested at that time.


“Time will play out. Who knows? We’ll see what happens with the draft. But it’s a situation where, look, if a team wants me in the long term, it’s a year where they’re going to have to give up picks and then also have to renegotiate, so that’s kind of playing against us for sure. But we’ll see, like I said. Time will tell, and we’ll see what happens after the draft.”

Ekeler, who joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2017, has been one of the NFL‘s top dual-threat running backs over the last few seasons. He rushed for 915 yards and a league-high 13 touchdowns to go along with 107 receptions (the most for a running back) and 722 receiving yards last season.

Ekeler is hoping that he can bring that production elsewhere unless the Chargers change their stance. 

“Look, I guess the worst-case scenario right now out of all of it, I’ll come back and I’ll have to play for the Chargers for a year and bet on myself and then be a free agent next year,” Ekeler said.

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