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Ekeler 'relentlessly' seeking long-term deal: 'I'm so underpaid'

MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images / MediaNews Group / Getty

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler made it clear that he'd like a new long-term deal that's commensurate with his on-field production.

"It's really important to put it out there that it's not like, 'Oh, I hate the Chargers, and I need to get out of this organization, and I need to leave.' That couldn't be further from the truth," Ekeler said on the "Green Light with Chris Long" podcast. "I would like to stay if it was under the right circumstances."

He added, "I feel like there's no timeline on (a trade). I'm so underpaid right now as far as my contract and what I contribute to the team. I am relentlessly pursuing this. I want to get something long-term done."

The dual-threat back received permission to seek a trade on March 14 after extension talks stalled. He signed a four-year, $24.5-million deal with the Chargers ahead of the 2020 campaign. Ekeler's contract is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2023 season and will pay him $6.25 million, according to Spotrac.

"If there's an opportunity to get more value, then why would you not jump on that? Why would you not at least try out the options?" he said. "And worst-case scenario - it's not even a worst-case, really - but, OK, go play on the last year of your deal in L.A., then become a free agent."

Ekeler spent the entirety of his six-year career with the Chargers, joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2017.

Over the last two seasons, the 27-year-old produced significantly more touchdowns than any other NFL player and ranks fourth in scrimmage yards.

Player Scrimmage TDs (2021-22) Scrimmage yards (2021-22)
Austin Ekeler 38 3195
James Conner 26 2209
Davante Adams 25 3068
Nick Chubb 22 3197
Josh Jacobs 21 3273
Justin Jefferson 19 3463

Despite Ekeler's statistical dominance, he ranks 14th in average annual value for running back contracts, and seven backs average $12 million or more per year, nearly double what Ekeler makes, per Spotrac.

Player Contract AAV Scrimmage TDs (2021-22) Scrimmage yards (2021-22)
Christian McCaffrey $16M 15 2665
Alvin Kamara $15M 13 2724
Dalvin Cook $12.6M 16 2851
Derrick Henry $12.5M 23 3027
Nick Chubb $12.2M 22 3197
Joe Mixon $12M 25 2774
Aaron Jones $12M 17 2706
Austin Ekeler $6.125M 38 3195

The diminutive back believes he's mentally and physically ready to continue producing at the highest level for whichever club he suits up for in 2023 and beyond.

"I'm at the peak of my game, right? As long as I'm healthy, I'm gonna score you another 20 touchdowns. I'm gonna have another 1,600 all-purpose yards. I'm getting half my value of what I could be getting. I am relentlessly pursuing someone who wants me for the long term."

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