It wouldn’t seem likely on the surface, but if dominoes fall a certain way Austin Ekeler would be everything the Detroit Lions could want in a running back.
The longer he goes without re-signing, the more it’s likely Jamaal Williams does not come back to the Detroit Lions. So they should be on the lookout for a pivot options, if they haven’t been already. A big one just landed as an option via the trade market.
On Monday, reports surfaced saying Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler asked the team for permission to talk to other teams about a trade as contract extension talks haven’t gone anywhere. On Tuesday, the team reportedly granted that permission.
During the NFL Network’s “Free Agency Frenzy” on Tuesday, talking about fantasy football fits, Steve Wyche mentioned the Lions as a fit for Ekeler. That’s of course predicated on losing Williams in free agency, but it’s certainly an interesting idea.
Ekeler has played every game over the last two seasons for the Chargers, with 38 total touchdowns over that span. Last season, he finished fifth in the NFL in receptions (107).
Austin Ekeler would be everything the Lions could want in a running back
As is typical, any talk of anyone trading for Ekeler has to include contractual matters. He is entering the final year of his deal, with a $6.25 million base salary. That’s the core of his rub with the Chargers, based on what he’s done the last couple years and really three of the last four seasons in a sense.
The Chargers surely take pause in the fact Ekeler is a smaller back who’s not afraid to a be a physical runner, and that he’ll turn 28 in May.
Ekeler will interlace his desire for a contract extension into any talks with other teams about being traded there. But that shouldn’t have to be a firm commitment beyond two or three more years, perhaps with some added money for this year.
In the wake of Monday’s reports, Justin Melo of The Draft Network had the Lions on his list of three best trade destinations for Ekeler.
"(Jamaal) Williams became free to negotiate with competing franchises as of Monday afternoon. Williams rushed for a league-high 17 touchdowns and could price himself outside Detroit’s comfort zone.D’Andre Swift is entering a contract year in 2023. Swift has struggled with injuries and general inconsistency. The Lions won’t lean on Swift as a bell cow back. It’s partially why I believe Detroit is an underrated landing spot in the 2023 NFL Draft for Bijan RobinsonHolmes made an aggressive pitch to attract Ramsey via trade before his deal to Miami. It indicates the Lions, who are expected to compete for the postseason, are aggressively pursuing roster upgrades. A top-two pass-catcher at the running back position, Ekeler would be a terrific resource for Jared Goff."
Ekeler would be the red zone force Williams was last season, combined with the pass-catching prowess Swift offers when he’s on the field. The Lions should have an eye on backs who can do both things well. While it seems pretty unlikely he lands in Detroit, Ekeler is now a “never say never” option if Williams winds up gone.