In six years with the Chargers, running back Austin Ekeler has gradually evolved from a role player to a valuable bell cow.
In 2021, after never starting more than 10 games in a season, Ekeler exploded for 911 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground on a team that fell just short of the postseason. In 2022, he slightly eclipsed those totals, racking up 915 yards and 13 scores for a team that did make the playoffs.
Now, with Ekeler seeking a new contract in line with his market value, the Western State product has signaled his desire to be traded. This has created mixed feelings for Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley.
"We've been in full communication with his team," Staley said Sunday on NFL Network. "I think there's alignment and a way forward. We want him to be a Charger. I think that that's something that (general manager) Tom (Telesco) has said. It's something I've said. We want this guy to be a Charger."
Despite Staley's desire to keep the league's ninth-most productive offense in 2022 together, he expressed understanding of Ekeler's plight.
"We're also respectful of his position, and we're gonna see where it goes. There's gonna be time now between now and our first game, and we'll see what happens," Staley said. "But I know the Chargers feel very strongly about Austin Ekeler. He's just been fantastic for us."