Chargers’ Austin Ekeler demands answers from NFL owners amid depressed running back market

The lack of running backs landing lucrative long-term contracts has been widely debated this NFL offseason.

Monday marked the last day for the franchise tag players to come to an agreement on new contracts. But, the deadline came and went without some notable brokers signing deals.

Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Josh Jacobs remain under the franchise tag as training camp begins for most teams in a few days.

Players at other positions who were tagged as franchises were able to reach long-term deals this offseason.


Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 26, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

On the other hand, four-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook remains a free agent after the Vikings decided to release him in a salary-cap saving move.

He minnesota vikings He selected Cook in the second round in 2017 and became a star player for the team. Cook finished his Vikings career with 5,993 rushing yards and 1,794 receiving yards.


Cook played in all 17 regular-season games in 2022, but had a career-low 4.4 yards per carry. He also produced the second lowest rushing yards per game (69) of his professional football career.

Meanwhile, Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing in 2017, also continues to search for a new team.

Austin Ekeler vs. the Jaguars

Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers carries the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of the AFC Wild Card playoff game at TIAA Bank Field on January 14, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Ekeler has spoken about the general direction of the running back market and has also spoken about his discontent with his contract with his team. His feud with the Chargers seemed to peak in March, when the Chargers gave Ekler permission to pursue a trade.

However, the two sides reached a temporary resolution earlier this offseason, when the Chargers reportedly added $1.75 million in incentives to their agreement by 2023.

During a recent appearance on CBS Sports Radio, Ekeler challenged NFL owners to share why running backs’ financial security seems to be slipping away.

«I’ve talked about this quite a bit just because it’s not good for our broker market in terms of capital inflow, it’s putting it like a ceiling, there’s no new contracts going through, there’s no new comparables that are really relevant because there’s been a fixed number of boys,» Ekeler said.

«From a player point of view, we have no control over that. I have no control. So really who we want answers from is ownership. Why are you doing this? What’s the reasoning?»

Austin Ekeler and the Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, October 2, 2022 in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Ekeler also noted that he had trouble attracting interest when he was on the trade market, telling CBS Sports that teams were hesitant to make a deal because it came with «baggage.»

The baggage was a reference to the idea that the Chargers were looking for highly valuable draft picks in exchange for Ekeler’s services.

«No, and that’s because I came with a lot of baggage,» Ekeler said. «You were going to have to trade some high picks for me. The Chargers 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 let me trade, they’re like, ‘Okay, but we want you to get these kinds of picks,’ which weren’t low picks, ‘but we’re not going to pay you like you’re that kind of player.’


«So, it’s kind of interesting where it’s like, ‘Oh, if you’re going to be traded, you’ve got to be traded to this level, but if we’re going to keep you, we’re going to keep you down. here at this level.'»