AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is back with the team for his seventh NFL season despite an attempted contract extension and an unfulfilled trade request, but signs are pointing toward 2023 being his finale with the Bolts.
“For me, I understand that I have one more obligation here,” Ekeler said Tuesday at mandatory minicamp, per the team transcript (h/t Nick Shook of NFL.com).
“One more year that I’m obligated to be here. I wanted to go poke around and see if there was any other value. If not, right? Come back and have my last year. Like I said before, do what I can do here.”
A trade did not come to fruition, and Ekeler ended up staying in L.A. after the team added $1.75 million in incentives on the final year (2023) of his current contract, a four-year, $24.5 million contract signed in 2020.
Ekeler may not be entirely pleased with his current contract situation, but it’s clear he’s still going to put in the work and give the effort required, especially with his future in mind. He’s also keeping a positive attitude about the situation.
“Regardless of what happens here – whether I think it’s fair or not – look, I’m going to try to put myself in the best position I can while I’m here, but I’m also doing that off the field, as well,” Ekeler said Wednesday, per Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News.
“So, I’ve kept a pretty open mind, a forward-looking outlook about it.
“I’m not mad. I’m not mad about the situation or anything like that.”
Ekeler, 28, has led the NFL in touchdowns each of the last two years. He amassed 1,637 yards and 18 scores last season. The dual threat notably caught 107 passes for 722 yards and five touchdowns.
He made an effort to parlay that 2022 season into more money, and while it didn’t lead to a contract extension, Ekeler will be getting more in incentives. The running back said he was “very appreciative” of the Chargers’ offer.
“I’m thankful for the way it played out because the Chargers did give me something in the middle, some kind of incentive. I am very appreciative of that because they did not have to do that. I understand there’s a business side to all of this, but I wouldn’t be doing myself a service if I wasn’t trying to find more value while I can. All of us have a shelf life and you have to maximize it while you can.”
Ekeler and the Bolts are looking to build off a 10-7 season that resulted in the team’s first playoff appearance since 2018.