We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.
2019 in review
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was hoping to get an extension ahead of the 2019 season and decided to hold out when he wasn’t offered a new deal. The 26-year-old missed the first four games of the season before ultimately caving and returning to the team. Although Austin Ekeler made his value clear as a replacement back during Gordon’s absence, Gordon led the team in carries (162) and rushing touchdowns (8). Had he been a Week 1 starter, he would’ve posted much better numbers.
Gordon was able to reach the end zone a decent amount, but rushed for less than 50 yards in seven of the 12 games he appeared in. Can he still be a go-to guy with production like that? Was he just out of shape after being away from the team for weeks? Those questions need to be answered, as those kind of numbers might not warrant the $13 million a year he asked the Chargers for last season.
There are a few teams that could benefit from Gordon’s services. One of those is the Miami Dolphins, who quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led in rushing for the 2019 season. Their group of running backs was headlined by Kalen Ballage after Kenyan Drake was shipped to the Arizona Cardinals. Ballage and Patrick Laird don’t appear to be legitimate feature backs, and whatever quarterback Miami selects in the 2020 draft will need the help of a consistent rushing attack.
Another team that could use Gordon is the Houston Texans. Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller are free agents in March, and Duke Johnson didn’t reach double-digits in carries once last year. Hyde isn’t consistent, Miller is coming off a torn ACL, and Johnson has never been asked to carry a serious workload. Upgrading to an option like Gordon could make the Texans even more dangerous in 2020.
Do the Chargers want to keep him?
Although Gordon’s contract holdout didn’t go as planned, he still wants to play for the team that selected him with the 15th overall pick on the 2015 NFL Draft. It’s not clear if the Chargers want to move forward with him though. Ekeler notched 993 receiving yards and 557 rushing yards while splitting time with Gordon and shouldn’t be nearly as costly. Is Gordon worth paying more than twice the $5.6 million he earned last year? Answering that question might be difficult.
Gordon got off to a slow start following the return from his contract holdout and was outperformed by Ekeler, who finished as a top 10 running back because of prolific pass-catching ability. Gordon finished in the mid-20’s but still led the team in rushing yards with a career low 612. Ekeler has cemented himself as a big part of Los Angeles’ offense, and if Gordon stays with the Chargers I don’t think he’ll crack the top 20 for fantasy football point production. But if he leaves and is the lead back on another team, he’ll have top 10 potential.
There haven’t been any major reports or rumors concerning Gordon’s next destination, but former Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson predicted that he’ll land with Miami in 2020. More should begin to emerge when Los Angles decides what to do with Ekeler, who is a restricted free agent.
Update 3/5 — Melvin Gordon will test the free agency market, per Josina Anderson.