Going into his 6th year in the NFL, Melvin Gordon has shown that he can be a starting-caliber running back that can make plays both inside and outside the backfield. After a somewhat slow rookie year, Gordon has maintained a heavy workload allowing him to rush for 1,105 yards in 2017 and average 5.1 YPC in 2018. In both of these years, Gordon also amassed about 500 receiving yards showcasing his ability to stretch the field.
In the beginning of the 2019 season; however, as Gordon knew he was going into a contract year with the Chargers, he decided to hold out and sit himself for the first 3 games of the year. Although the Chargers ended up losing 2 of these 3 games, Gordon’s backup, Austin Ekeler, proved that he could fill in for the missing Gordon.
While Gordon struggled when he returned, Ekeler remained a valuable piece for the Chargers by finding room as a receiver and totaling almost 1,000 receiving yards. Although some of the struggles the Chargers had in rushing during 2019 may have been due to injuries with their offensive line, Gordon did not make a case for himself for a larger contract. After only being offered around $10M from the Chargers, Gordon decided to sign a $16M 2-year deal with the Broncos.
Despite an underwhelming 7-9 performance from the Broncos in 2019, they are finally starting to get their pieces together. After adding WRs Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler with their first and second round picks in the draft, the Broncos are trying to surround QB Drew Lock with as many weapons as possible. Also, by signing Melvin Gordon and establishing their running game, the Broncos are attempting to relieve pressure and generate more spacing on offense.
Although Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay will see a drop in production after the signing of Gordon, he will likely remain a part of the Broncos offense. After an impressive first 2 seasons in the NFL, with over 1,000 rushing yards each year, the Broncos would be careless to not utilize him anymore. With Gordon likely taking the majority of carries, Lindsay might have more of a role in the passing game in 2020.
Looking at the Chargers for 2020, with Gordon gone, Ekeler will finally have an opportunity to show if he can handle a starting role. While Ekeler excelled in the passing game during his first two seasons, he also averaged 5.2 YPC his rookie year and 4.2 last year. Although the Chargers drafted UCLA RB Joshua Kelley in the 4th round of the 2020 draft, it is still Ekeler’s spot to lose.
By holding out at the beginning of the 2019 NFL season, Melvin Gordon almost guaranteed himself that he would be moving on from the Chargers. Although these kinds of hold outs should no longer be allowed in the NFL, according to the new Collective Bargaining agreement (CBA) agreed upon during this off-season, both the Broncos and the Chargers should benefit from this move.
With Gordon moving on, the Chargers were able to save money and sign free agents like Chris Harris Jr. while also maintaining a reliable and high upside running back in Austin Ekeler. For the Broncos, by signing Melvin Gordon, they are beginning to develop an offense full of playmakers to surround and support QB Drew Lock. By having a change of scenery, Melvin Gordon will likely see a recurrence of numbers similar to 2017.