Dec 10, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs the ball against the Denver Broncos during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Commanders sign RB Austin Ekeler to two-year deal

The Washington Commanders and free agent running back Austin Ekeler agreed to a two-year contract, multiple reports said Monday.

The contract is worth up to $11.43 million, NFL Network and The Athletic reported.

Washington also reportedly agreed with linebacker Frankie Luvu on a three-year deal worth up to $36 million.

Ekeler will join a new NFL team for the first time after spending his first seven seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. Ekeler reportedly sought a trade last offseason before staying with Los Angeles.

Ekeler’s former head coach with the Chargers, Anthony Lynn, will be the Commanders’ running backs coach and run game coordinator in 2024.

Ekeler tied for the NFL lead in combined rushing and receiving touchdowns in both 2021 (20) and 2022 (18) as the Chargers’ featured back. His production tailed off in 2023, when he rushed 179 times for 628 yards and five touchdowns and caught 51 passes for 436 yards and one touchdown.

In 103 career games (68 starts), Ekeler has amassed 8,239 yards from scrimmage (4,355 rushing, 3,884 receiving) with 39 rushing touchdowns and 30 receiving TDs.

He projects to be the No. 1 back in Washington after former Commanders running back Antonio Gibson agreed to a deal with the New England Patriots.

Luvu, 27, had a team-leading 125 tackles for Carolina last season in his third campaign with the Panthers and sixth in the NFL. He has 236 stops over the past two seasons.

Overall, Luvu has 338 tackles, 20 sacks and one interception (returned for a touchdown) in 88 career games (39 starts).

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates after a touchdown in the first half against the Miami Dolphins at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers RB Austin Ekeler (ankle) ruled out vs. Vikings

Running back Austin Ekeler will be sidelined for the second straight game when the Los Angeles Chargers visit the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Ekeler didn’t practice at all this week due to an ankle injury and was ruled out on Friday.

He also missed last week’s 27-24 overtime road loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Chargers had just 61 rushing yards against the Titans as fill-in starter Joshua Kelley had 39 yards on 13 carries.

Ekeler injured the ankle in the season opener against the Miami Dolphins. He rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown and added four catches for 47 yards in the 36-34 loss.

Ekeler, 28, joined the Chargers in 2017 and has 3,844 yards and 35 touchdowns on the ground as well as 393 receptions for 3,495 yards and 29 scores. He has scored 39 touchdowns (26 rushing, 13 receiving) since the start of the 2021 season.

Veteran linebacker Eric Hendricks (hamstring) also will miss his second straight game, as well as his return to Minnesota. Kendricks starred on the Vikings’ defense for the past eight seasons.

Star pass rusher Joey Bosa (hamstring) was a limited practice participant on Friday and is listed as questionable. Linebackers Daiyan Henley (hamstring) and Chris Rumph II (hamstring) and defensive lineman Christopher Hinton (back) also are questionable.

For the Vikings, linebacker Marcus Davenport (ankle) will miss his second straight game since getting injured in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Center Garrett Bradbury (back) is listed as questionable. He also was injured in the opener and sat out Week 2’s 34-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2023; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) disputes a call with side judge Keith Washington (7) in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) to play vs. Chargers

Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is listed as active for Sunday’s game against the visiting Los Angeles Chargers in Nashville, Tenn.

Hopkins did not practice all week due to the ankle injury he sustained on the last offensive play for the Titans in their 16-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday.

Hopkins, 31, had seven catches for 65 yards in the season opener.

A three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Hopkins has 860 catches for 11,363 yards and 71 touchdowns in 146 games (all starts) with the Houston Texans (2013-19), Arizona Cardinals (2020-22) and Titans.

While Hopkins is active for the Titans, the team listed the following players as inactive: safety Amani Hooker, cornerback Kristian Fulton, guard Peter Skoronski, wide receiver Colton Dowell, linebackers Caleb Murphy and Trevis Gipson, and quarterback Will Levis.

As for the Chargers (0-1), they ruled out star running back Austin Ekeler on Saturday. On Sunday, Los Angeles listed linebackers Eric Kendricks, Chris Rumph and Daiyan Henley as well as offensive lineman Brenden Jaimes, defensive lineman Christopher Hinton and safety A.J. Finley as inactive.

–Field Level Media

Jul 26, 2023; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (97) during training camp at Jack Hammet Sports Comples. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers’ Joey Bosa, Austin Ekeler miss another practice

Los Angeles Chargers stars Joey Bosa and Austin Ekeler were held out of practice for the second straight day Thursday.

Bosa is bothered by a hamstring injury. It is unclear whether the elite pass rusher will be ready for Sunday’s road game against the Tennessee Titans. He reported soreness following a season-opening 36-34 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Ekeler is dealing with an ankle injury he sustained during the loss to the Dolphins. He had 117 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and also caught four passes for 47 yards.

Bosa, 28, a four-time Pro Bowler, has 60.5 career sacks in 85 games (80 starts) for the Chargers, dating back to the 2016 season when the franchise was located in San Diego.

Ekeler, 28, joined the Chargers in 2017 and has 3,844 yards and 35 touchdowns on the ground as well as 393 receptions for 3,495 yards and 29 scores. He has scored 39 touchdowns (26 rushing, 13 receiving) since the start of the 2021 season.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks (hamstring) also had missed practice the past two days. Kendricks, 31, is in his first season with the Chargers after eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

–Field Level Media

Jan 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) looks for room to run against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFC divisional round game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Chubb on RB pay: ‘There’s really nothing we can do’

A group of top NFL running backs met via Zoom to discuss the salaries being paid at the position, and Cleveland Browns star Nick Chubb had a sobering message for his fellow running backs.

“Right now, there’s really nothing we can do,” Chubb told ESPN on Sunday.

Chubb confirmed to the outlet that he was among the players to take part in the videoconference on Saturday, which Pro Football Talk reported was the brainchild of Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers. Chubb said Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Saquon Barkley were among the running backs who joined in.

The meeting came on the heels of Barkley (New York Giants), Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders) and Tony Pollard (Dallas Cowboys) all being unable to reach multi-year contracts ahead of the deadline for franchise-tagged players.

ESPN said the running backs brainstormed ideas but did not come up with any plans to address ways to boost their pay.

“We’re kind of handcuffed with the situation. We’re the only position that our production hurts us the most,” Chubb said, per ESPN. “If we go out there and run 2,000 yards with so many carries, the next year they’re going to say, you’re probably worn down. It’s tough. … It hurts us at the end of the day.”

Barkley and Jacobs both were franchise tagged by their teams but have not signed their franchise tenders, worth $10.09 million for the 2023 season. Pollard signed his tag and is expected to report to training camp. Barkley and Jacobs are not, per ESPN.

The average salary for an NFL running back is $1.76 million, which is about $1 million less than the average for a player on offense, according to Spotrac. The average salary for a left tackle is $8.95 million, by contrast.

McCaffrey is playing on a four-year, $64 million contract extension signed with the Carolina Panthers — the highest annual average pay at the position.

“This is Criminal,” McCaffrey tweeted about the contract situations facing Barkley, Jacobs and Pollard. “Three of the best PLAYERS in the entire league, regardless of position.”

Chubb agreed.

“We’re definitely in a tough situation, running backs as a whole,” he said. “Saquon’s a great player and you can ask anyone around the league or even on the Giants how much he means to that team. So it’s hard seeing him not get what he deserves.”

–Field Level Media

Jun 13, 2023; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) during minicamp at the Hoag Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Top RBs plan Zoom call to discuss depressed market

Los Angeles Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler has organized a online video call on Saturday night with several of his peers to discuss the depressed market at their position, Pro Football Talk reported.

Per the report, all of the high-profile running backs have been invited to the conversation on the Zoom platform. The NFL Players Association also will take part in some capacity.

The reported call comes on the heels of star running backs Saquon Barkley (New York Giants), Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders) and Tony Pollard (Dallas Cowboys) all unable to reach multi-year contracts ahead of the deadline for franchise-tagged players.

That brought about very vocal responses over social media from fellow running backs Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts), Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans), Christian McCaffrey (San Francisco 49ers) and Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers), among others.

Ekeler, himself, also was unable to receive a long-term contract and is heading into the final season of a four-year, $24.5-million deal with the Chargers.

–Field Level Media

May 23, 2023, Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws the ball during organized team activities at the Hoag Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers QB Justin Herbert optimistic about contract situation

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert knows he will be a rich man sometime in the near future, but he can’t tell you when he will agree to a big-money contract with the club.

Herbert addressed his situation on Monday at the team’s charity golf tournament in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., saying he has faith the organization will make everything work.

“They’ve done such a great job of taking care of us and my message really hasn’t changed,” Herbert told reporters. “It’s been an honor to be a part of this team. It’s great to come to events like this and whatever happens, happens and it’s out of my control at this point.”

Herbert has seen the salary landscape rise this offseason with Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles landing a five-year, $255 million deal, and Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens topping that with a five-year, $260 million package.

Herbert, slated to earn $4.23 million in 2023, underwent surgery in January to repair a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. The club has exercised his fifth-year option of $29.5 million for the 2024 season.

The injury situation leads observers to wonder whether Herbert would be fine with playing his fourth NFL season without an extension being signed.

“That’s a good question. I think that’s something you have to address and you have to think about,” Herbert said. “My job at this point is just to play quarterback and to be the best leader, quarterback and teammate that I can be. So I’m doing everything I can to rehab, get back and make sure my shoulder is ready for this season.”

The 25-year-old Herbert recently resumed throwing and is forecast to be ready to go well before the start of the 2023 season.

“I feel a lot better,” Herbert said. “The shoulder is holding up, been able to lift quite a bit more, conditioning, so picking up more, especially upper body-wise. So it has been tough. It’s an unlike any other offseason for me, but you have to find a way to make it work.”

Herbert has passed for 14,089 yards, 94 touchdowns and 35 interceptions in 49 games (all starts) over his first three NFL seasons.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley said Monday that he expects running back Austin Ekeler to participate in next week’s mandatory minicamp.

Ekeler sought permission to seek a trade earlier this offseason but the club recently added $1.75 million in incentives for this season, when he is slated to earn $6.25 million in base pay. Ekeler is slated to become a free agent after the season when his four-year, $24.5 million deal concludes.

“It’s best for everybody,” Staley said. “It’s best for him and best for us because you want to get joined up so that you can go have a productive training camp and really formulate your team and your identity going into the season.”

New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has raved about Ekeler’s fit in his offense. Ekeler led the NFL with 18 total touchdowns (13 rushing, five receiving) last season and tied for the league high of 20 with Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts in 2021.

Ekeler rushed for 915 yards last season as well as establishing career highs for receptions (107) and receiving yardage (722).

–Field Level Media

Jan 14, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) against the Jacksonville Jaguars during a wild card playoff game at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Chargers RB Austin Ekeler requests to seek trade

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler asked for the team’s blessing to seek a trade, his agent told multiple media outlets on Monday.

Ekeler and the Chargers discussed a contract extension but talks didn’t progress, ESPN reported, resulting in the 2017 undrafted free agent asking for another avenue to a payday.

Ekeler, 27, caught 107 passes for 722 yards and rushed for 915 yards on 204 carries with a total of 18 touchdowns in 2022. He scored 20 combined touchdowns in 2021 and has four consecutive seasons with 50-plus receptions.

General manager Tom Telesco wasn’t keen on the idea of parting with Ekeler. Grouping him with Keenan Allen and other “good players,” Telesco said he would prefer to keep the RB when discussing the team’s salary cap standing at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.

Ekeler is scheduled to make $6.5 million this season, the final year of a four-year contract he signed in 2020.

Running back is a deep position in the draft, but Ekeler figures to be a coveted option if he’s made available.

The Chargers are tight against the 2023 salary cap and the looming prospect of a long-term deal with quarterback Justin Herbert clouds Telesco’s options.

Herbert is a lock to have his fifth-year option picked up for 2024, but most high-profile quarterbacks have been locked up before reaching that stage. He will make only $4,234,376 in 2023 before making five times that salary on the option.

–Field Level Media

Dec 16, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates after a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers RB Austin Ekeler (COVID-19) out vs. Texans

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said Saturday that he again tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Sunday’s game against the host Houston Texans.

Ekeler made his announcement on his Instagram account.

“Today was basically my last day to test negative if I was going to be able to travel but I tested positive so I won’t be playing this week,” Ekeler said. “So there it is. I’m sorry. Be back next week though.”

Ekeler was placed on the COVID-19 list earlier this week. He leads the Chargers with 789 rushing yards and 17 total touchdown (10 rushing, seven receiving) and also has 62 receptions for 558 yards.

The Chargers have 12 players on the COVID-19 list, including star pass rusher Joey Bosa and center Corey Linsley.

Houston has 24 players on the COVID-19 list, including standout receiver Brandin Cooks.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Ekeler helps Chargers rally past Browns

Austin Ekeler scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns and the Los Angeles Chargers overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit to defeat the Cleveland Browns 47-42 on Sunday at Inglewood, Calif.

It was the third time this season the Chargers have come from behind in the fourth quarter to win a game.

Justin Herbert played spectacular and finished with a career-high 398 passing yards, completing 26 of 43 passes. Herbert threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions. He also ran for a score.

Down 42-41 with 2:02 left at Cleveland’s 48-yard line, the Chargers drove 48 yards on five plays, with Ekeler pushed into the end zone by the Browns’ defense at the 1:31 mark for their offense to have enough time to retake the lead. Ekeler’s run on the two-point conversion fell inches short.

On the ensuing possession, the Browns failed to get past midfield.

With the win, the Chargers improved to 4-1 on the year, while the Browns dropped to 3-2. The back-and-forth game had seven lead changes, including three in the fourth quarter.

The two teams combined for 1,024 total yards.

Mike Williams was Herbert’s favorite target, finishing with eight receptions for 165 yards and two scores. Ekeler posted 66 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and also recorded five receptions for 53 receiving yards.

Keenan Allen added six receptions for 75 yards on nine targets.

Chargers kicker Tristan Vizcaino missed two extra points on the day, including one wide left that would have tied the game at 42. Vizcaino has missed four extra points this season.

For the Browns, Cleveland running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 222 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Chubb finished with 161 rushing yards on 21 carries and a 52-yard touchdown, while Hunt added 61 rushing yards and two scores. The Browns averaged 6.6 yards per carry.

Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield also had a bounce-back game after a poor performance last week in a win over the Minnesota Vikings. Mayfield completed 23 of 32 passes for 305 yards and two scores. Mayfield did not throw an interception.

Tight end David Njoku led the Browns with seven receptions for 149 receiving yards, including a 71-yard run and catch for a score. Donovan Peoples-Jones added five receptions for 70 receiving yards.

Odell Beckham Jr. finished with just two receptions for 20 receiving yards on three targets.

–Field Level Media