It’s easy to understand why two-time Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon believes he is due a raise from his current salary of $5.6 million after scoring 14 total touchdowns and averaging 114.6 scrimmage yards per game last season. His odds of obtaining a richer, re-worked deal, however, may not be great in a league where the running game has been on the outs for years and there are plenty of metrics that show the wisdom of replacing running backs rather than paying them.
In 2018, teams rushed the football 25.9 times per game, the lowest mark in NFL history. And that’s just the latest in a downward trend that started back in 2003. Accompanying that statistical trend is a contractual one, in which teams have often opted to let even top-tier running backs walk away rather than spend big on a second contract. It at least appears the Los Angeles Chargers are similarly minded after their offer to Gordon.
“We received an offer — talks had been dead — but we received an offer that wasn’t a fair offer based on what Melvin has done, where he was drafted, and how he’s performed, making two of the last four Pro Bowls,” Damarius Bilbo, one of the agents who represents Gordon, told NFL Network. “It was disrespectful.”
Gordon isn’t as integral to the team’s success as he and his agents might think.
In the 12 games Gordon played last season, the Chargers averaged 128 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. In the four weeks he missed (Weeks 7, 13, 14, and 15) backups Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson managed 84 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. So there is some dip in performance. However, Ekeler proved more elusive than Gordon. According to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, Ekeler created 3.63 yards per carry after contact in 2019. By comparison, Gordon created 2.83 yards per carry after contact, similar to what Jackson was able to muster (2.76).