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Melvin Gordon picked a bad time to play contract chicken with Chargers

Melvin Gordon has stated through his agent Damarius Bilbo that he will demand a trade and will not report to training camp without a new contract extension.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero broke this story Thursday morning, and his colleague Ian Rapoport spoke with Gordon’s agent about it afterward.

“He’s very serious,” Bilbo said. “He’s worked his butt off and the fifth-year option is a result of where he was drafted. It’s what it is. But if we’d gotten a respectable offer, we wouldn’t be here. But he felt disrespected. He’s very serious.”

The Chargers offered an extension that Gordon and his representatives feel is “disrespectful” because of his production.

To be fair, he has a brilliant resume since the 2016 season.

  • Gordon has piled up 4,372 yards from scrimmage
  • He has rushed for 28 touchdowns
  • He has caught 10 touchdowns

From his perspective, the timing of this demand for a market-value contract seems perfect. The Los Angeles Chargers open training camp in a couple of weeks, and deadlines force action.

Unfortunately, the timing is actually really not in his favor from a league-wide perspective.

It all starts with Todd Gurley: Gurley signed a record-breaking deal with the Los Angeles Rams nearly a year ago.

  • He inked a four-year, $60 million deal with 45 million guaranteed.
  • Since then he’s had knee problems that have led to significantly reduced production.
  • He was unable to carry the load in the playoffs, and the Rams drafted another running back who shows promise, Darrell Henderson.

Recent run on first-round running backs: The likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley have landed big-money guarantees based on their draft slots as high first-round picks.

They represent four of the top-10 contracts for NFL running backs in terms of guaranteed cash. However, it’s worth pointing out that the best among them, and one of the best in the NFL, is having issues getting an extension with a team that actually has stated it wants to work out a deal.

While all of these high draft picks have been productive for their teams when healthy, it’s worth pointing out that they are still relatively young, and that there are few older running backs landing big-money deals these days.

Veterans among the top-10: Looking at the other big-money running backs in the NFL outside of first-round picks on their rookie deals, it’s hard to say the contracts have been justified.

  • Gurley is No. 1: $45 million guaranteed, and we’ve already gone over what a bad deal that turned out to be for the Rams.
  • David Johnson is No. 2: He got $39.1 million guaranteed before last season and proceeded to have an abysmal year on an abysmal offense. It remains to be seen whether he will ever bounce back to what we saw in his one brilliant season (2016).
  • Le’Veon Bell is No. 5: He sat out a year and signed a deal that garnered him $27 million guaranteed with the New York Jets — hardly what he was aiming for when he originally held out of the 2018 season.
  • Devonta Freeman is No. 7: The Atlanta Falcons gave Freeman $22 million guaranteed on an extension before the 2017 season. Since then, he has missed half his starts due to injury and didn’t score a single touchdown last year.
  • LeSean McCoy is No. 8: This 30-year-old may have hit a wall last year. He’s on the final year of his current deal and could potentially be a surprise training camp cut.
  • Jerick McKinnon is No. 9: The San Francisco 49ers doled out a free-agency deal worth $18 million guaranteed before last season. McKinnon ended up missing the entire campaign with an ACL injury.

Of the six top-paid running backs in the NFL who are veterans not still on their high-priced rookie deals, it’s debatable if any of them are worth the money they are getting paid.

One would assume, based on his previous production, that Bell could be worth it.

McCoy is the only one we can definitively say was worth it — until last season. And at this point we really don’t know what he has left any more.

Back to Melvin Gordon: The Chargers running back wants to land at least one big-money contract before his wheels fall off, and it’s hard to blame him for that. However, despite his tremendous production the past three seasons, he isn’t without significant risk.

  • In his four NFL seasons, Gordon has missed games due to injury in all but one.
  • He also has significant wear and tear on his body already, having been an absolute workhorse during his college days at Wisconsin (549 carries in his final two seasons).

Furthermore, as productive as Gordon has been, the Chargers have a couple of other running backs they could certainly get by with, if Gordon plays hardball and sits out the season.

  • Austin Ekeler has been electric the past couple of seasons.
  • Second-year back Justin Jackson was a decent third option last year.

Finally, despite the recent run on first-round running backs around the league, the NFL still at its heart views running backs as a relatively cheap commodity.

  • Even the highest-paid running backs are getting significantly less guaranteed money than top players at many other positions.
  • Every single year, late-round picks and undrafted free agents emerge as go-to players around the league.

The bottom line: In short, there is extreme risk associated with giving an oft-injured running back a ton of guaranteed money. The other veterans who have landed big contracts recently attest to that. On top of that, teams can also pick up production at this position for very cheap.

Gordon is a darn good running back who has a nose for the end zone, but he isn’t a generational talent. With that in mind, we’d be shocked if the Chargers gave Gordon what he wants.

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