Ekeler On Melvin Gordon's Holdout: "It Kind Of Hurt Us"

Austin Ekeler, who had a breakout season in 2019, shared his thoughts on Gordon's holdout

Zach Gelb
March 27, 2020 - 9:25 am
Austin Ekeler Melvin Gordon Chargers

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Austin Ekeler had a breakout season in 2019. He carried the ball 132 times for 557 yards and three touchdowns while adding 92 catches for 993 yards and eight touchdowns through the air. As a pass-catcher, Ekeler was basically Christian McCaffrey, who had 116 catches for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns.

Ekeler was able to do that, in part, because Melvin Gordon held out at the beginning of the season. Ekeler had mixed feelings about that.

“Being a running back, I kind of had two ways of looking at it,” the 24-year-old said on The Zach Gelb Show. “One, he’s a running back. I hope he gets paid what he wants to get paid because that helps me set the market for myself in the future. He’s an easy comparable because we play on the same team. So I can compare my stats, ‘Look, he got paid this. I’m on the same team. I did this.’ So I can compare myself that way contract-business-wise. 

“But at the same time, he’s one of our playmakers,” Ekeler continued. “So him not being there, it might have hurt us, it might have not. I don’t know, but it seemed like we were missing some consistency last year. I think when Melvin held out as much as he did and missed as much football as he did, it kind of hurt us in the end as far as having one of our playmakers back in the locker room.”

The Chargers finished 5-11 after going 12-4 in 2018. 

Last fall, Gordon reportedly turned down a contract that would have paid him $10 million a year. He may regret not taking that deal, as he recently signed a two-year $16 million deal with the Denver Broncos.

When the season ended, Ekeler didn’t know if Gordon would be back in Los Angeles.

“There’s so much disconnect between management and us,” he said. “I thought maybe with Coach [Anthony] Lynn firing [Ken] Whisenhunt and maybe having more say in the offense – I know he was a running back coach for 20 years – that maybe he would want Melvin, being a bigger back, more like a pound-it-between-the-tackles back, maybe they’d want him back. But I had no idea.”

Once the Chargers began contract negotiations with Ekeler, however, the picture became more clear. Ekeler signed a four-year, $24.5 million deal that includes $15 million guaranteed.

“When we started talking numbers,” Ekeler said, “that’s kind of when it became apparent to me [they] might not be signing Mel back.”