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Jim Harbaugh Offers Candid Remarks On Chargers Free Agent

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh recently spoke to the media about free agent running back Austin Ekeler.
Austin Ekeler Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh is officially the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, and one of the biggest decisions he’ll have to make is figuring out what to do with running back Austin Ekeler. Over the past few years, the former undrafted free agent has been the unquestioned workhorse in Los Angeles, serving as one of the most reliable all-around backs in the game.

However, the business side of the NFL reared its ugly head last year. One year before Jim Harbaugh arrived, Austin Ekeler held out for a multi-year contract and even requested a trade. Ultimately, nobody was interested in giving up picks and a big contract for the running back, so he returned to the team on a revamped one-year deal.

Had Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco stuck around, there is a good chance that Ekeler would have already played his last snap with the Chargers. However, new head coach Jim Harbaugh recently spoke about the impending free agent, and he made it sound like he wants Austin Ekeler to come back.

“If things go well, it’s going to be because of guys like Austin Ekeler and the players,” Harbaugh said. “I like Austin Ekeler. We’re going to have a huge emphasis on the run game, and we gotta block better up front. He’s a tremendous back and we’d love to have him on the team next year.”

Jim Harbaugh: Austin Ekeler Is A “Tremendous” Back

Based on these comments, it’s safe to say that Jim Harbaugh is a fan of Austin Ekeler. While the running back had a relatively disappointing season last year, Harbaugh appears to be willing to put all the blame for that on the offensive line. Last year, the running back appeared in 14 games, recording 628 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 179 carries (3.5 yards per carry) to go along with 51 receptions for 436 yards and one touchdown on 74 targets.

Now entering his age-29 season, Austin Ekeler is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but he could easily join Jim Harbaugh on a short-term contract. His days of being a three-down back are probably over, and Los Angeles could easily invest in another running back to lower Ekeler’s burden.

The silver lining for the Chargers is that Ekeler’s age and position mean that he probably won’t earn a large contract in free agency. This is good news for Los Angeles, as they’re currently $44 million over the salary cap. Jim Harbaugh is an old-school type of coach who believes in the power of the running game, but even if he wanted to sign someone like Saquon Barkley, he might have to settle for Austin Ekeler.

At the end of the day, a lot can happen between now and the start of the free agency. However, based on what Jim Harbaugh said and the current needs of the team, nobody should be surprised if Austin Ekeler comes back for one last contract with the Chargers.

Main Photo: Kirby Lee – USA Today Sports


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