Ekeler, entering the last year of his four-year 24.5 million dollar deal, is set to make 6.25 million this year.
This past year, Ekeler rushed for career-highs with 13 touchdowns and 915 yards on 204 carries. The year before that, he had similar numbers with 12 touchdowns and 911 yards on 206 carries. Ekeler believes he should be compensated more based on this production level, and rightfully so, but to request a trade when he’s entering the last year of his deal took the franchise by surprise.
Meanwhile, the Chargers have no plans to move on from Ekeler and are reluctant to consider any trade packages. They also restructured his deal a bit so that he is eligible to earn nearly two million in incentives. That being said, here are the three teams that would benefit the most in trading for Ekeler.
The Teams Who Should Trade for Austin Ekeler
The Texans got a stud in the fourth round of the 2022 Draft in Dameon Pierce. However, he had mediocre production in his rookie season for a lead back.
In his first season, he rushed for 939 yards on 220 carries with three touchdowns. He also had 165 yards on 30 catches with one touchdown. While this production isn’t terrible for a fourth-round rookie, it isn’t enough to keep him as the lead back if Ekeler is on the trade block. As Ekeler has told the Chargers front office, he wants out.
Ekeler would immediately bring high-caliber play to a struggling Texans offense that greatly benefitted from this year’s draft by taking quarterback C.J. Stroud with the second overall pick. In order to have a chance at prying Ekeler out of LA, as the organization has made it clear they do not want to trade him, a potential trade package could be the Texans sending LA one of their two first-round picks in 2024 or a second/third-round pick in 2024.
The Texans would gain a dynamic playmaker still at his peak as he rushed for the most touchdowns in his career this past season (13). Unfortunately, he isn’t cheap, and he most likely would want a larger contract, as that was his main issue with LA. The Texans have roughly $18 Million left in cap space for this season, the sixth highest in the league, so this deal would be doable if LA is open to moving him.
The Broncos have a solid starter in third-year running back Javonte Williams, although he blew apart his knee last year and missed most of the season. The organization has stated they don’t have an exact return date for Williams.
New Head Coach Sean Payton would be ecstatic to land the dynamic back in Ekeler and use him effectively, allowing Williams to recover fully. All that being said, the Broncos are light in salary cap right now, with roughly seven million. Still, they have first-round picks in 2024 and 2025, as well as some second and third-round picks that can be used to entice the Chargers.
Although, there is no timetable for Williams’ return, the Broncos Front Office likes what they have seen so far in him. Since this trade would be primarily early to mid-round picks, the salary cap becomes an issue once Ekeler joins the backfield if he is to get moved. Denver also finds themselves in a bit of a hole due to the number of picks they gave Seattle in exchange for Russell Wilson, who had an abysmal season in 2022 while with the Broncos.
The acquisition of Ekeler would take a lot of pressure off of Williams as he tries to prepare for the next season and would completely change the way opposing teams view Denver’s offense from a weapons standpoint. It would also take the pressure off Wilson, as teams would have to shift their focus to Ekeler.
The Bears let go of long-time starter David Montgomery this offseason, leaving behind Khalil Herbert to take the reins. The Bears did bring in D’Onta Foreman on a one-year deal after a productive year with the Carolina Panthers. However, this leaves the Bears with a relatively unproven backfield with no bonafide starter.
A move for Ekeler would be massive for this organization as they continue to try to surround third-year quarterback Justin Fields with high-quality players. The Bears have numerous picks in the early rounds of next year’s draft and the league’s highest salary cap at roughly 30 million, making this move quite doable.
This is quite possibly the best deal for both teams, of course, if LA is willing to let go of their star and hope that their backups can emerge as solid playmakers. This move would help the Bears make the jump into the postseason, where they haven’t been since 2020. It would give Ekeler a chance to make the money he deserves and change the outlook of a franchise that always seems to be just barely missing the playoffs.
The likelihood of Los Angeles shipping off Ekeler is low. He is an integral part of their offense as they look to make a deeper playoff run this coming season. However, if the Chargers decide to move on from Ekeler (which is highly unlikely due to the restructuring of his contract), the teams listed above should make sure they submit a proposal, as the acquisition of Ekeler would boost any backfield.
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