Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

NFL Insider Expects One Franchise Icon To Switch Teams

One NFL insider believes that the Los Angeles Chargers are not going to re-sign running back Austin Ekeler in free agency.
Austin Ekeler Free Agency

Between Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Derek Henry, and Austin Ekeler, several big-name running backs are set to hit free agency. As recently as 10 to 15 years ago, running backs were seen as one of the most vital parts of any roster. However, with the rise in analytics, teams aren’t winning to invest as much in the position.

Of course, not every team thinks this way, as some still believe in the power of the running game. Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are two such individuals, as the two have consistently talked up the need to provide a strong run game for Justin Herbert. With this in mind, one might think that Austin Ekeler would return to the team in free agency. However, a recent report indicates that this is not the case.

NFL Insider Expects Austin Ekeler To Leave In Free Agency

This report comes as a bit of a surprise at first glance. Jim Harbaugh has publicly praised Austin Ekeler ahead of free agency, and it’s no secret that this team wants to run the football. However, perhaps the Chargers are looking for a better running back. At his best, Ekeler was one of the most dangerous dual-threats in the league. However, the former undrafted free agent had a rough go of it last year, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry while finishing with the 55th-best PFF grade out of 59 eligible running backs.

Seeing as Austin Ekeler hits free agency entering his age-29 season, it’s safe to wonder if the Chargers are looking at pivoting toward a younger player like Saquon Barkley. Ekeler is relatively small for a running back, so perhaps years of handling a workhorse role have started to take their toll on the Western State product.

Austin Ekeler might not be a true three-down threat anymore, but several teams should be interested in adding him in free agency. Even in his present state, he’s still an above-average receiving back, and his efficiency should go up with fewer touches. Last year, we saw a similar thing happen with Ezekiel Elliott, as he was one of the few bright spots in New England’s offense. Now, these five teams could be willing to make a similar gamble with Ekeler.

Best Team Fits

Kansas City Chiefs

Reports across the league are already connecting Austin Ekeler to the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency, and it’s easy to see why. Isiah Pacheco and his physical, hard-nosed style of running have secured early-down work for the foreseeable future, but he’s nothing special as a receiver. Ekeler still has a reliable pair of hands, and that’s a great skill to have in a pass-heavy offense like Kansas City. As a bonus, Ekeler would probably relish the opportunity to play his old team twice a year.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys tried to turn Tony Pollard into a three-down workhorse last year, but the former fourth-round pick couldn’t maintain his efficiency with the added touches. Pollard is a free agent, and if the Cowboys can’t get someone like Saquon Barkley in free agency, they could pivot to Austin Ekeler. Ekeler shouldn’t handle all three downs, but bringing in him and retaining Tony Pollard could give this team the reliable backfield they need to finally make a deep playoff push.

Chicago Bears

Roschon Johnson and Khalil Herbert showed some promise in their first season without David Montgomery, but neither guy did enough to lock down the starting job in 2024. Even at his current age, Austin Ekeler would still be the best back on this roster, and signing him in free agency would give Chicago three reliable playmakers out of the backfield. With the Bears likely to select Caleb Williams with the first-overall pick, Chicago will probably try to build a strong ground game and add a running back capable of reliably hauling in dump-off passes when pressure breaks through.

Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens reportedly want a big-name running back in 2024. While Derrick Henry is the betting favorite in free agency, Austin Ekeler could be a nice fallback plan. Ekeler is a better pass-catcher than Henry, and the Ravens have never had a reliable receiving back in the Lamar Jackson Era. Jackson often feels the need to make plays on his own, which can be something of a double-edged sword. Perhaps if he had a more reliable playmaker near the line of scrimmage, Baltimore could eliminate some of their fumbling woes.

Carolina Panthers

The Miles Sanders signing was a complete disaster. Instead of trying to hope Dave Canales can bring out the best in him, Carolina needs to bite the bullet and add a running back who can start in the NFL. Austin Ekeler might be the most cost-effective signing in free agency, as Carolina needs a receiving back more than a running back. Bryce Young needs somebody who can catch the ball, and Ekeler’s ability near the line of scrimmage meshes well with his low average depth of target.

Main Photo: Orlando Ramirez – USA Today Sports


More Posts

Send Us A Message