Los Angeles Chargers superstar running back Austin Ekeler has requested permission to seek a trade, according to multiple reports. Ekeler has been dissatisfied with a lack of discussion regarding a potential contract extension. Ekeler is currently scheduled to enter the final season of a previously-signed four-year extension that would pay him a modest base salary of $6.2 million in 2023, per Spotrac.
One of the league’s top-performing dual-threat backs, Ekeler possesses every right to demand an extension. His market should be robust with potential suitors that would be willing to sign him to a multi-year extension. We’ve swiftly identified three potential landing spots for Austin Ekeler.
The Dolphins immediately pop as a potential destination. Head coach Mike McDaniel is desperate to improve a Dolphins rushing attack that failed to launch throughout 2022. The Dolphins signed and acquired multiple running backs in the offseason and during the season as well, but finished the year averaging 26th-ranked 99.2 rushing yards per contest. A former run game coordinator in San Francisco, McDaniel is awfully familiar with how a high-octane run offense can transform his unit.
The Dolphins recently acquired former Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a blockbuster trade. General manager Chris Grier managed to acquire Ramsey at a low cost and still possesses the draft capital necessary to attract Ekeler. Trading for Ramsey also signals Miami’s aggressive intentions to win now. They recently restructured the contracts of several star players to borrow money from the future. Miami could pursue Ekeler via trade.
It’s difficult to predict which schematic direction the Ravens are traveling in until the Lamar Jackson saga reaches a conclusion. If there’s one likely outcome, I believe the Ravens will stick to a run-heavy offensive identity, with or without Jackson. Running the football plays to Jackson’s strengths. It could also aid a transitional period should Jackson depart the franchise.
J.K. Dobbins continues to deal with the fallout of a season-ending knee injury suffered in 2021. Dobbins led all Ravens running backs with a measly 520 rushing yards in 2022. Both Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill are unrestricted free agents and may not return to the Ravens in 2023. Baltimore could justify acquiring Ekeler via trade.
The Lions are equipped with a reasonable $21.3 million in cap space. General manager Brad Holmes has yet to re-sign breakout running back Jamaal Williams. Williams became free to negotiate with competing franchises as of Monday afternoon. Williams rushed for a league-high 17 touchdowns and could price himself outside Detroit’s comfort zone.
D’Andre Swift is entering a contract year in 2023. Swift has struggled with injuries and general inconsistency. The Lions won’t lean on Swift as a bell cow back. It’s partially why I believe Detroit is an underrated landing spot in the 2023 NFL Draft for Bijan Robinson.
Holmes made an aggressive pitch to attract Ramsey via trade before his deal to Miami. It indicates the Lions, who are expected to compete for the postseason, are aggressively pursuing roster upgrades. A top-two pass-catcher at the running back position, Ekeler would be a terrific resource for Jared Goff.
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