3 Chargers on Thin Ice With Jim Harbaugh as Head Coach

Austin Ekeler is among the few players who might not be with the Los Angeles Chargers next season under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Dec 10, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs
Dec 10, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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With former University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh ushered in as the new head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, we should expect to see some notable changes this offseason as he tries to get Los Angeles back into the playoffs.

Harbaugh and new general manager Joe Hortiz have a unique challenge ahead of them as Los Angeles has 19 unrestricted free agents, including star running back Austin Ekeler. In addition to those free agents, the Chargers are also $44 million over the cap heading into next season.

Therefore, the Chargers’ brass might have to make some tough decisions regarding some vets with an astronomical cap hit in 2024. Below, we’ll discuss a few players who could be on thin ice or playing elsewhere next season.

1. Austin Ekeler

With the Chargers not in the best financial position, the team might have to say goodbye to versatile star running back Austin Ekeler.

Ekeler is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March after coming off a less-than-stellar 2023 campaign. The veteran running back struggled on the ground with 628 rushing yards, five touchdowns, and a 3.5 yards per carry average (career-low).

The 28-year-old running back also missed three games earlier this season with a grade 2 ankle sprain, which hampered his production. Ekeler also wasn’t a major factor in the passing game, as he only had 51 receptions (74 targets) for 436 yards and a touchdown. 

Spotrac projects Ekeler’s calculated market value this offseason as a three-year, $22.3 million deal with an average annual salary of $7.4 million. The Chargers could bring him back at this rate. But Los Angeles might be better off signing a younger running back in free agency or addressing the position in the 2024 NFL Draft.

If Ekeler is not in a Chargers uniform next season, it will be strange to see, as he’s been an integral part of the team’s offense for many years. However, we know that running backs in the league have a short shelf life, and the closer they get to 30 years old, their production will begin to fall off.