Will Melvin Gordon follow Le’Veon Bell’s template and sit out a season?

Los Angeles Chargers

If he doesn’t get a new contract in the coming weeks, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is prepared to hold out and demand a trade.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Melvin Gordon and the Los Angeles Chargers have been having discussions about an extension. But those talks seem to not be going well. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Gordon has told the team he will not report to training camp and will demand a trade if he doesn’t have a new deal in place.

Gordon is set to make $5.6 million this year, under his fifth-year option. The pure volatility of the running back position makes long-term security an easy priority, and at 26 years old he’s already approaching the back end of what most would consider his peak.

The Chargers appear to want to give Gordon a long-term deal. But they could also see an injury-prone back, who has missed at least two games in three of his first four NFL seasons with just 1,000-yard campaign on his resume. But he has also shown a nose for the end zone with 28 rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons (38 total touchdowns in that span), with at least 50 receptions in each of the last two.

The team could call Gordon’s bluff if agreement on a new deal isn’t reach in the next couple weeks, and be ready to move forward with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson as their top two running backs. Gordon would be subject to fines for missing training camp practices, to say nothing of missed game checks if he held out into the season. He would lose about $330,000 per week during the regular season.

Le’Veon Bell took a risk by refusing to sign the franchise tag a second time with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, and he ultimately sat out the season before signing a four-year, $52.5 million deal ($35 million guaranteed) with the New York Jets this offseason. He has carried some durability concerns as well, but he also made $12.1 million in his fifth NFL season under the franchise tag. As a first-round pick, unlike Bell, Gordon was automatically tied to a fifth-year option and the financial ceiling that represents.

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At the same age Gordon is now Bell set a template for a running back to sit out a season, and save wear and tear on his body, while still getting paid (by a new team) on the back end. It’s a little riskier for Gordon, with less in career earnings ($10.669 million) than Bell made in his lone year under the franchise tag. But if the Chargers don’t budge, he ends up sitting out the 2019 season and still gets a nice contract, Bell’s template stands to become a trend for running backs who are seeking long-term deals.

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