Austin Ekeler explains trade request, sounds off on contract situation

The Los Angeles Chargers gave Austin Ekeler permission to seek a trade, but the star running back recently admitted it was only because the team had shut him out while discussing a potential long-term contract.

On a recent episode of the “Greenlight with Chris Long” podcast, Ekeler aired his grievances about his contract status with the Chargers and why he feels the team suddenly wants to get rid of him.

“I’m so underpaid right now as far as my contract and what I contribute to the team,” Ekeler said, via Kevin Patra of “I am relentlessly pursuing this. I want to get something long-term done. I want a team that wants me long-term because look, I’m at the peak of my game. … I’m getting half my value of what I could be getting. So, it’s like, I’m relentlessly pursuing someone who wants me for the long term.”

Ekeler, 27, signed a four-year, $24.5 million contract with the Chargers in 2020. That was before he rushed for more than 900 yards and caught 70 or more passes in back-to-back seasons, including his 107-reception, 722-yard effort in 2022 in which he led the NFL with 18 total touchdowns and finished in the top 10 in voting for the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

His 3,195 yards from scrimmage is the fourth-most over the last two seasons, behind only Justin Jefferson (3,463 yards), Josh Jacobs (3,273 yards) and Nick Chubb (3,197 yards), and he’s scored 12 more touchdowns than the next-closest player.

“We’re 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,” Ekeler added.

Further complicating the matter is any team interested in Ekeler would have to negotiate a sizeable contract extension plus surrender a trade package decent enough to make it worth the Chargers’ while.

Ekeler’s projected market value is $12.8 million per year, according to Spotrac, but that seems like an unrealistic number given two of the top free-agent running backs — Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard, both of whom rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2022 — will play for $10.1 million in 2023 under the franchise tag unless they negotiate long-term deals.

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