Article by: Justin Imler
This is starting to become a regular part of the NFL offseason nowadays. It's another summer, and another top tier running back has threatened to sit out for training camp and beyond unless he gets paid. However, this time, LA Chargers RB Melvin Gordon took it one step further. News broke out this week via his agent Fletcher Smith, that if the Chargers do not offer the RB a new contract this offseason; he'll demand to be traded. Now this might sound pretty simple, just pay him, right? Well, Gordon doesn't want to be paid; he wants to be paid like one of the top running backs in all of football, which raises the question: does he deserve it?
Melvin Gordon is currently on the final year of his rookie contract that he signed after being the Chargers’ 1st round pick back in 2015, and is set to make $5.6 million this year. As most avid NFL fans know, the running back position is a very unique one, and by unique, I mean that no one likes paying them. I touched on this topic briefly in a previous article of mine in which I talked about potential contract extensions for WRs Michael Thomas and Julio Jones, which can be found HERE.
Long story short, the prime window for running backs in the NFL is a small one, so Gordon is trying to cash in on his big pay day (which almost always comes from a running back’s 2nd contract) a year early. We've seen this before; take a look at Le’Veon Bell last offseason. Bell felt he deserved to be the highest paid RB in the league and threatened to sit out the entire season if Pittsburgh attempted to franchise tag him again. Ultimately, no agreement was made, and Bell sat out the entire 2018-2019 season. He eventually ended up singing with the New York Jets this offseason, whose offer ended up being worth less than Pittsburgh’s final offer last summer.
Now back to the present. Gordon has put the LA Chargers in a very similar predicament; however Gordon says he wants out of LA altogether if they cannot get a deal done. This took the NFL world by surprise seeing that the Chargers were tied for the best record in the AFC last season and are prime contenders this season as well. I'm not really sure why you would want to walk away from a situation like that, especially when you're due to get paid in a year anyway. Yes, it would be another year of playing professional football, and the chance of getting injured, but a young talented back like Gordon will get paid regardless in my opinion, whether that's by the Chargers, or someone else.
The current running back market looks like this. There are the top tier guys, Todd Gurley ($14.4 million/yr.), Le’Veon Bell ($13.125 million/yr.), and David Johnson ($13 million/yr.). I call these three the top tier because RB salaries take a pretty big dive when we get to #4 on the list, Devonta Freeman ($8.25 million/yr). Reports are circling that Melvin Gordon wants to completely alter the running back market, which is really saying something after seeing how the Le’Veon Bell situation played out. It's looking like Gordon wants to be paid like a top 5 guy, and I honestly don't think Gordon is at that level, and thus, does not deserve that type of pay.
There are only three guys that are making north of $10 million a year, but if I had to guess, I think the Chargers are going to pay Gordon around that mark in order to keep him with the franchise. I don't think Gordon is at the level of play to completely change the RB market, and I think the league knows that as well. Gordon is talented, but no one is going to overpay for him, so the Chargers and Gordon should, and most likely will, find some sort of common ground to secure the RB stays in LA for the long term, because ultimately that's what both sides want.
My official prediction is that both sides will come to terms on a deal before the regular season begins, most likely paying Gordon between $11-$12 million per year, making him the new 4th highest paid RB behind Gurley, Bell, and Johnson. Personally, I think David Johnson is overpaid, but both Bell and Gurley are deserving of their contracts. The only guys in the near future who I think will get contracts that compete with theirs are Ezekiel Elliot and Saquon Barkley, for obvious reasons.
To sum up, it seems like every year we get a new guy who thinks they can completely change the running back market, and every year it simply doesn't happen. Yes, Gordon has said he'll request a trade if he doesn't get a new deal, but I don't think this situation will come to that. Gordon doesn't want to leave LA, and LA doesn't want to lose a very talented RB. Expect a deal to get done by the time the regular season rolls around in early September.
Justin’s Top 10 NFL RBs Heading into 2019 (as of 7/15/19)
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