Dark Horse Austin Ekeler Replacement Takes Major Step Toward Free Agency

If the Los Angeles Chargers do not re-sign Austin Ekeler, the team should consider signing Gus Edwards in free agency.

Dec 25, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) runs
Dec 25, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) runs / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
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The Los Angeles Chargers could have a brand new backfield next season as veteran running back Austin Ekeler will become an unrestricted free agent in March. 

The 28-year-old running back is coming off a rough 2023 season, where he posted 628 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 179 carries, along with 51 receptions (74 targets) for 436 yards and a touchdown.

New head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke glowingly of the versatile running back earlier this month, saying he’s a “tremendous running back” and “we’d love to keep him” next season. Even though it sounds great on paper, Los Angeles might decide to sign another running back in free agency or draft one, as it's a quality running back class.

Spotrac projects Ekeler’s calculated market value as a three-year, $22 million deal. That’s not a crazy amount of money for a running back of Ekeler’s stature, but they might want to go after a cheaper option, such as Gus Edwards.

Chargers Rumors: Gus Edwards to be Available as RB Signing?

Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards had the last year of his contract void on Monday, which means he won’t be under contract and will hit free agency when it opens up in March.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported last weekend that “some personnel people inside the league believe the Ravens will target a running back with a pedigree in free agency. If that’s the case, the veteran running back will play elsewhere next season.

Edwards is coming off a ridiculous 2023 season with the Ravens, where he had a career-high 810 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 198 carries. The 28-year-old running back started in nine out of 17 regular season games but still managed to be a red zone weapon. 

The former Rutgers running back is the same age as Ekeler. But Spotrac projects his calculated market value as a one-year, $3.6 million, which the Chargers might consider. Edwards could be reunited with Greg Roman, who was the Ravens offensive coordinator from 2019-22.

The 6-foot-1 running back was effective under Roman, rushing for at least 700 yards in 2019 and 2020. Edwards didn’t score as many rushing touchdowns (11 over three years) as he did in 2023, but he was effective inside the red zone.

At the University of Michigan, Harbaugh ran the ball a lot with standout running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards in between the tackles, which Edwards does well.

If it only takes a small one-year deal to sign Edwards, do not be surprised if Los Angeles takes a chance and drafts a rookie running back this spring.

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