Late last week multiple sports outlets reported that Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon will not show up to camp without a new contract. In addition, if they can not come to a deal, Gordon is demanding a trade. Gordons’ agent, Fletcher Smith, told the media that he and his client are dug in on the matter. Reportedly, there has been no progress in negotiations which spurred them to take this drastic action.
Gordon is in is option year, set to make $5.6 million dollars. Given his production since being drafted in 2015, he has transformed into a top-5 running back in the NFL. Last season, he ranked fifth in yards from scrimmage. Over the last three seasons, he’s only second to Todd Gurley in carries with 1,079 and third in the league in touchdowns (38) and yards from scrimmage (5,205) over the last four seasons. Undoubtedly contributing to their decision making process are the recent long-term extensions given to fellow running back contemporaries Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (4-yrs, $60 million, with $45 million dollars guaranteed), Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (3-yrs, $39 million with $30 million dollars guaranteed) and Le’veon Bell (4-yrs, $52.5 million with $25 million dollars guaranteed). All three threatened to sit out until they got a new deal and only Bell actually sat out a season.
To holdout now will be the greatest leverage he has to use. The Chargers are coming off a 12-4 season highlighted (and lowlighted) by a trip into the AFC Divisional Round against the eventual Super Bowl champions, New England. The window of opportunity for Philip Rivers and company is now and Gordon is a big piece of the pie in that equation. At 26, this is the best time for Gordon to holdout. His value is at its peak, this is the moment of greatest need for his team with the Chargers ascending to championship contender status and he has proven himself to be a durable, reliable, elite dual-threat running back.
The only reason Bell didn’t succeed in getting paid with the Pittsburgh Steelers is because he waited until after he had been franchised twice. Bell and Gurley got their deals before the team had that control in their hands. The Chargers have the same leverage inasmuch that they can franchise tag Gordon for up to two more seasons at the league average of the top-5 running backs in the league. It’s in the Chargers’ best interest to get a long-term deal done or trade Gordon now as opposed digging in and letting him go (after sitting out the season) and getting nothing in return. Gordon loses all leverage by playing the season and allowing himself to get franchised for two seasons. What team is going to give a long-term contract with a boatload of guaranteed money to a 28-year old running back?
So what do the Chargers do?
The Chargers have a lot of big contracts of core players coming up at the end of 2020 and not a lot of cap space to sign them all. Rivers, Gordon, tight end Hunter Henry, linebacker Jatavis Brown, cornerback Trevor Williams, safety Adrian Phillips and center Mike Pouncey headline the players who will be looking to cash in on their on-field success. By the way, franchise defensive end Joey Bosa will be looking for big bucks at the end of the 2021 season. Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco has some big decisions to make and Gordon is forcing his name to the top of the list.
Without Gordon, the running back depth chart will be Austin Ekeler, second-year pro Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome and Troymaine Pope. Ekeler has proven his versatility and ability to make plays in space but the group behind him is unproven to say the least. Gordon, obviously is the element that takes this group from good to great. As seen by the recent signings of guys like Bell and Gurley plus the growing influx of backs that are as deadly catching the ball as they are running it; the devalued running back position is making a comeback. If Telesco makes a trade he is hamstrung because no team is going to make a fair offer knowing the position he is in. At best he may be able to acquire a package of draft picks. A first round pick isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
The Oakland Raiders received a first-round pick from the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for wide receiver Amari Cooper. Weeks earlier, they had received two first-round picks, a sixth-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick plus a conditional fifth-round selection for Khalil Mack. Cooper was coming off a down 2017 season and found himself lost in the wide receiver shuffle until newly-hired Raiders coach Jon Gruden shipped him out of town. Mack has established himself as a top-5 if not the best pass rusher in the league before Gruden sent him away. Gordon is closer to the Mack end of the spectrum than the Cooper end. The problem is draft picks are always a crapshoot. A package of picks including a first-rounder or two is all well and good, but it does not result in equal value and it does nothing for the loss of production for a team that is among the favorites to appear in the Super Bowl.
The other side of the coin is to sign Gordon and judging from the deals mentioned above, the terms are going to be in the neighborhood of a three- to f0ur-year deal worth $13- to 16-million dollars per year with two-thirds of that money guaranteed. Can the Chargers afford it? According to Sportrac, Over-The-Cap, ESPN Stats and Info and other sources, the Bolts have just under $11 million dollars in cap space. Still, cap space backdoors are known and utilized by ever GM in the league. Keeping Gordon keeps the Chargers consistent and on course for that long-awaited Super Bowl return. Keeping Gordon keeps the Chargers in place as the biggest threats to Kansas City, who will be heralded as the heir apparent to the Patriots’ franchise based on the trajectory of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is coming into this, his third season, on the heels of winning the NFL MVP award after his first season as the Chiefs starting QB.
As a fan and as a man who was there at the NFL Draft when Gordon was drafted, I want him to stay a Charger for life. I’ve met the man, had a conversation with him and shook his hand on the very first day he was tapped to be a Charger. He’s a solid guy, very kind, very active in the community and has a sparkling reputation as a teammate. That being said, I believe Gordon will be traded. I cannot blame the Chargers front office as much as I’d like to do so. The system is flawed with the way teams can get away with so many years of control before a player can cash in on a long-term deal. I can’t blame Gordon for holding out as much as I can’t blame the Chargers brass for wanting to hold onto control for as long as they can before backing the Brinks truck up to his door. Players are now getting wise to the fact that this is the road to hoe if they’re going to avoid overuse and get paid before getting stuck on a series of one-year contracts.
Whatever they decide, they don’t have long to do it. Gordon and Smith have established the beginning of training camp, July 24, as their hard line date to get a new contract done. If they don’t get a deal, they want the Chargers to start looking for trade partners. There’s no reason at this point to believe they won’t follow through on their threat since no new news has come through the pipeline since this story broke. I believe the Chargers will shop Gordon and take the best offer they can get. Having a disgruntled player in the fold will be a huge distraction to the team, the fan base and the bottom line knowing he is at home while the team is fighting for a playoff spot. If Gordon is gone everyone has no choice but to accept it and move on. The Chargers should be able to get a Khalil Mack-esque deal. It won’t be as good but comparable in the sense that it will be multiple picks and at least one first-round pick. Brace yourselves Chargers fans. It won’t be pretty but we know, now more than ever, how much of a business the NFL has become. May the football Gods have mercy on our souls….
The Greg One
On Thursday the news broke that the Oakland Raiders had made their quarterback, Derek Carr, the highest-paid player in NFL history. The new deal is for five years and $125 million, a cool $25 million dollars per season. Carr will receive $40 million guaranteed at signing and $69 million guaranteed over the first three years of the deal.
The deal is a huge leap of faith for the Raiders but they feel they finally have their franchise quarterback in the fold. Quarterback has been the most glaring weakness of this team for almost two decades. The last time they had anyone that could be considered franchise quarterback quality would have been the Rich Gannon years from 1999-2004.
Carr is coming off of a breakout season in 2016 in which Oakland went 12-4. In his three seasons as Raiders quarterback, Carr has a 22-26 win-loss record and is barely over a 2.5-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 81 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.
Now the league will be watching to see if Clast season was a fluke or if he truly is ascending to the elite level of NFL quarterbacks. He is certainly paid as if he is elite. To their credit, the Raiders have built a championship-caliber defense. The offense is taking shape with Carr, standout wide receiver Amari Cooper, veteran wideout Michael Crabtree and blossoming tight end Clive Walford as an impressive assortment of weapons for Carr. Add the newest addition in legendary running back Marshawn Lynch to bolster the running attack and you have a scary unit, at least on paper.
While Carr is the richest player in the league at the moment, it won’t last long. Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are all in line for raises next offseason. Skill position players such as Le’Veon Bell and Odell Beckham Jr. will also be looking for mega-millions sooner than later.
What do you think? Was the the right move for the Raiders? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
Former Carolina Panthers safety Tre Boston arrived in San Diego on Monday. The Los Angeles Chargers worked him out in hopes of adding a veteran safety. The safety position has been in a state of flux since the departure of Eric Weddle last season. The team did take a step toward remedying the situation in their latest draft when they tapped Rayshawn Jenkins out of the University of Miami in the fourth round.
Boston has been making the rounds as he looks for a new team. He’s already completed a stops in Pittsburgh. He’s been documenting his travels on his Twitter page, @TreBos10:
— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) May 5, 2017
Boston was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Standing 6″1′-inches tall and weighing in at 205 lbs., Boston is the blend of experience and youth (he’s 24-years old) Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco craves. Arriving in San Diego on Monday, Boston ran into a former Chargers standout cornerback and Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie. He then tweeted out this photo:
— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) May 8, 2017
Boston accumulated 108 tackles (77 solo), ten passes defensed, three interceptions, two sacks and two touchdowns in his three seasons in Carolina. He’s a playmaker on the rise who would be a great addition to Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradleys’ defense.
The safety left San Diego after his physical and workout Tuesday and now is weighing his options between Pittsburgh, Buffalo and LA per his most recent tweet Tuesday afternoon:
Headed back to CLT, Chargers and Bills definitely made it a tough decision for me! I’ll go home and weigh the pros and cons with the Wife.🙏🏾
— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) May 9, 2017
Where will Boston be shipping off to? Stay tuned…
The Greg One
Any long-standing San Diego-now-Los Angeles Chargers fan can think of many failed attempts at clever marketing tactics. The latest, entitled #FightForLA is just as bad as the rest.
We get it. Now that there are two teams vying for the same fan dollars in Los Angeles it is seen as a ‘fight’ for Los Angeles. That sentiment couldn’t be farther from the truth for two major reasons. First and most importantly, no one in Los Angeles wants either team to be there. Aside from the subsection of devout loyalists (such as myself) who grew up with the teams in their former homes and would watch them if they relocated to Mars; neither move has raised an eyebrow among the general NFL populous.
Secondly, if the #FightForLA is intended to pit the Chargers versus the Rams in a L.A. rivalry the same way the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are pretended to be, that too is a fallacy. The Clippers have always been the red-headed stepchild in the NBA version of this L.A. story and even though they are currently better than the current version of the Lakers, the Lakers will always be the alpha dogs because of the championship banners hanging from the rafters.
Head-to-head, the Chargers are hands-down better than the Los Angeles Rams. Don’t believe me? These rosters prove my point:
Quarterback: Chargers QB Philip Rivers vs. (Quick, does anyone even know who the Rams starting quarterback is??) The answer is Case Keenum, Jared Goff and Sean Mannion all took snaps for the Rams last season to disastrous results and a 4-12 season. Altogether the Rams passed for 3,313 yards and that includes a 4-yard completion by their punter! By comparison, Rivers threw for over 1,000-yards more than the Rams quarterbacks combined (4,386).
Running Back: Rams Todd Gurley vs. Chargers Melvin Gordon. Part of a dying breed of bell-cow running backs, this is the most even matchup on the ledger. Gurley fell off from his breakout rookie season once teams figured the Rams couldn’t pass the ball and loaded the box to stop the run. Gurley managed 885 yards and 6 touchdowns on 287 attempts (3.2 yards per carry). Gordon did the opposite, rebounding from a disappointing rookie campaign to fall three yards short of a thousand yards on 254 attempts (3.9 yards per carry). Gordon went from zero touchdowns as a rookie to twelve (ten rushing, two receiving) in his sophomore year.
Wide Receiver: The Rams tried to run their offense through the speedy but diminutive (5″8′) Tavon Austin. Secondaries figured out the game plan early and rolled coverage to him. As a result he had only 509 yards and three touchdowns receiving. Running reverses and other gadget plays added another 159 yards and one touchdown to his 2016 resume. Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Lance Kendricks provided the bulk of the punch from the receiving corps, accounting for 1,063 yards and ten touchdowns combined.
In San Diego, Tyrell Williams had a breakout season amassing 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns by himself. Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin combined for another 1,487 yards and eight touchdowns. Not bad considering they lost their number one receiver, Keenan Allen, in the first week of the season.
Total offense: The Rams finished dead last in points per game (14) and yards per game (262.7). The Chargers finished ninth in points per game (25.6) and 14th in yards per game (356.8).
There’s no point into going over to the defensive side of the ball. Fans come out to see an exciting, dynamic offense and a good football game. While the argument can be made that neither team achieved that goal, the Chargers were able to put points on the board. The Rams were blown out (16 points or more) six times. They scored ten points or less nine times. The Chargers only had two games where they scored under 20 points (16 and 19) and of their 11 losses, eight were decided by a touchdown or less.
If this were a fight, the ref would’ve stopped it by now….
There is no question as to who is the best team in Los Angeles. Provided they can stay healthy, the Chargers will make the playoffs this season. Health is always the biggest problem with this team as they have not been able to keep their starters healthy for many seasons. The Rams will be living in the NFC West cellar for yet another year, healthy or not. They simply don’t have the talent.
Los Angeles is a notorious fair weather, bandwagon-jumping city. If you win, they will come and tell you they have been a fan for years. The only question is can the Chargers keep their weapons on the field and out of the trainers’ room and if so, how many games will it take before the Los Angeles public officially adopts them?
But retire the hashtag already…
Please and thank you.
The Greg One