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Melvin Gordon’s holdout is on its final day. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Chargers’ running back will end his holdout by reporting to the team on Thursday, but he won’t play against the Dolphins on Sunday. The news was first reported on Tuesday by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The former first-round pick, who is in the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent following 2019, was always expected to report to the team before the midway point of the season so he would be allowed to hit free agency in March, but he was not expected to report as early as September. It’s not difficult, though, to understand why Gordon has already decided to return to the team.
For one, the Chargers never caved to his contract demands. Two, his wish to be traded was never fulfilled. And three, he was losing both value and leverage with each passing week as his replacements thrived in his spot. It had to have become clear to Gordon that if he wanted to secure a lucrative long-term contract, his best move was to return to the Chargers, prove that he’s one of the league’s top running backs, and then hope a team out there in free agency would be willing to pay him like one come March.
Without Gordon, the Chargers have relied on Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, both of whom have excelled in Gordon’s absence. In three games, Ekeler has racked up 368 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage while Jackson totaled 155 yards as Ekeler’s backup. Both players averaged a healthy 6.5 yards per touch. They should remain heavily in the mix on Sunday, but their usage beyond Sunday will clearly take a hit.
Gordon should resume his role as the starter. He’s coming off the best season of his career. In a 12-game season, he accumulated 1,375 yards and 14 touchdowns from scrimmage (a career high) while averaging 6.1 yards per touch (also a career high, by a wide margin).
Earlier on Wednesday, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn told The MMQB’s Albert Breer, “He was our starter for a reason. We’d love to have him back. … I can only coach the ones who are here and get them going. But if Melvin comes back, that’d be a nice little boost.”
So, that probably means Ekeler’s Fantasy value should be expected to be reduced to that of a flex player while Jackson should be hitting the bench in most standard-sized leagues. But in terms of real-life football, the Chargers are now absolutely loaded at the running back position with three capable players. They need all the help they can get after bumbling through the first three weeks of the season and as a result, dropping two very winnable games and already falling two games behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.