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Staley: Chargers 'respectful' of Ekeler amid stalled contract talks, trade ask

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Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said Monday that he has a lot of respect for Austin Ekeler but understands why the disgruntled running back might want a change of scenery as the two sides negotiate a long-term contract.

"The respect for Austin I think from our side of things is at the highest they could be for a player," Staley said, according to Lindsey Thiry of ESPN. "The position that he's in we're certainly respectful of and I think there's been communication with his team and so we're understanding of that position."

The coach added: "We see him as someone that is going to help us win a world championship. But we're also respectful of the position he's in within his career and what he's looking for, too, so we're going to be patient but we love Austin Ekeler."

Ekeler has been looking for a long-term extension and requested permission to speak to other teams about a trade on March 13 amid stalled contract talks with the Chargers. Los Angeles has granted him permission.

The 27-year-old, who signed a four-year, $24.5-million contract with L.A. in March 2020, has one season left on his current deal.

"Those talks are ongoing," Staley said. "We're at the beginning of all that, but we all know how we feel about him and I think navigating this process, we have a very good relationship with his team."

Ekeler's $6.13-million average annual salary ranks 15th among running backs. Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers tops the position at $16 million.

Ekeler recently said he feels like he's "so underpaid" and is "relentlessly" looking to sign a long-term deal in the NFL.

An undrafted free agent in 2017, Ekeler has established himself as one of football's most versatile running backs, topping 1,500 scrimmage yards in three of the last four campaigns. The Western Colorado product leads the league with 38 total touchdowns since 2021.

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