Melvin Gordon Demands Trade or New Contract
Refuses to Report to Training Camp
July 18, 2019
The Los Angeles Chargers were having a quiet offseason, with a few key additions through free agency and the draft in order to improve on a playoff team that went 12-4 in 2018. It was quiet until last week, when star running back Melvin Gordon, through his agent, announced that he was holding out and would not report to training camp and will demand a trade unless he receives a new contract.
Gordon's agent, Damarious Bilbo stated: "We received an offer - talks had been dead - but we received an offer that wasn't a fair offer based on what Melvin has done, where he was drafted, and how he's performed, making two of the last four Pro Bowls. It was disrespectful."
Gordon rushed for 885 yards last season, averaging a career best 5.1 yards per carry and scoring 14 touchdowns, despite missing four games to injuries. He also caught 50 passes for 490 total yards during the 2018 season and is in the last year of a five-year contract. He will get paid $5.6 million in 2019.
He will be a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. Gordon wants a long-term contract with guaranteed money, probably in the neighborhood of $40 million guaranteed. Running back Todd Gurley of the Rams received $45 million in guaranteed money last season on his new contract.
Running backs, due to the wear and tear of the position, have a limited shelf life in the NFL. They are like new vehicles that depreciate over time. Gordon is 26 years old and considered to be in his prime. If Gordon decided to play and become a free agent, the Chargers could put the franchise tag on him for 2020.
In 2019, the franchise tag for running backs is $11.2 million in guaranteed money. That is less expensive for the Chargers than a long-term contract like the Gurley deal. Gordon, like most NFL players, wants the security of a long-term deal and the significantly higher guaranteed money that comes with it. This seems like a risky move by Gordon.
If he doesn't report when Chargers training camp begins on July 24th, he is subject to fines of up to $40,000 for each day missed, per the NFL collective bargaining agreement. The Chargers are under no obligation to sign him to a long-term contract at this point.
The Chargers will have four key free agents in 2020: Gordon, quarterback Philip Rivers, center Mike Pouncey and tight end Hunter Henry. All four of these 2020 free agents will be critically important to re-sign, with the top priority being Rivers. There may not be enough money to go around for a big dollar contract for Gordon.
The Chargers also have good running back depth on their roster, and it showed last season. Gordon missed four games in 2018 and the Chargers went 4-0 in his absence. Two of the wins were comeback wins on the road. Against Pittsburgh, the Chargers overcame a 23-7 halftime deficit to upset the Steelers on the road, 33-30.
Justin Jackson, a 2018 7th round draft pick, rushed for 63 yards on 8 carries and had one pass reception for 19 yards. He added an 18-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter. In their road win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chargers overcame a 14-point, 4th quarter deficit to win 29-28. Jackson rushed for 58 yards on 16 carries and scored on a three-yard touchdown run late in the 4th quarter.
He added three pass receptions for 27 yards. Jackson was a workhorse in his four years at Northwestern, finishing his career 10th among the NCAA's leading rushers with 5,440 yards. His salary in 2019 is $570,000. In 2020 it is $660,000 and 2021 it is $750,000.
Jackson could be the permanent replacement for Gordon and give the Chargers additional salary cap space to sign other free agents. If Gordon sits out training camp, he is giving more opportunities to Jackson and Austin Ekeler.
Gordon could sit out the season or demand a trade, but the Chargers don't really have to accommodate him. Gordon's $5.6 million-dollar contract is guaranteed, but he will not get paid if he is not on the field due to a holdout.
The smart move for Gordon would be to get on the field and focus on helping the Chargers get to the Super Bowl. He stated that he wants to be a Charger: "I want to end up with the Chargers. That's my home. That's the team that blessed me with an opportunity. They started my life. They changed my life. I can't forget them for that."
Hopefully, for both the Chargers and Gordon, he will be on the roster in 2019, leading the team to their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.