Melvin Gordon is back with the Los Angeles Chargers sooner than expected, but his days with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2015 are now reportedly numbered.
The Chargers running back reportedly ended his holdout this week, returning to the team after spending the entire preseason and first three weeks of the season away. Gordon had been holding out for a new contract, reportedly seeking to be paid among the top running backs in the league at somewhere between $13 million and $15 million per year. The Chargers offered him a $10 million annual salary, and then ended negotiations after Gordon’s camp rejected the deal and the two sides failed to make any progress.
As ESPN reported, Gordon has now ended his holdout and was expected to report to the team on Thursday. It’s not clear what role he might play this week, as Chargers coach Anthony Lynn hinted that the team will need to spend some time evaluating Gordon and his conditioning during the weeks he was away from the team.
“I don’t think you just walk in camp and just play right away without going through any practice,” Lynn told reporters on Wednesday amid reports that Gordon was coming back. “You can run and do all the drills you want, but it’s hard to simulate real football.”
Backup running back Austin Ekeler has taken on a larger role in Gordon’s absence, both in the running and passing games. If Gordon does not play on Sunday, Ekeler and fellow backup Justin Jackson will continue to shoulder the load for the Chargers.
It initially seemed to insiders that Gordon would remain away from the team much longer. Gordon needed to come back to the Chargers at some point this season in order to get credit for the final year of his contract and allow him to head to free agency, but that date didn’t come until November. Gordon, who will be seeking a big contract when he hits free agency, was expected to take his time in coming back.
Now that Gordon is back, it also seems clear that his days with the Chargers are numbered. ESPN‘s Adam Schefter reported via Twitter that Gordon has “plans to move on” from the Chargers after this season and once he is able to hit free agency. He will likely be greeted by a market that has grown increasingly difficult for running backs, as pass-heavy offenses have devalued the position and led to a fewer number of teams with high-paid backs.