We still expect the Los Angeles Chargers to make further changes in the 2023 offseason. That’s because they have not really done much so far. Of course, that also means that there are still some gaps to fill on their roster. They can do so through the draft, but they can also use the trade market. Here we’ll look at one perfect NFL trade the Los Angeles Chargers must complete in the 2023 offseason to improve their depth moving forward.
One guy who has been on the trading block for a few weeks has been running back Austin Ekeler. Recall that he requested permission to speak with other NFL teams about a potential trade in mid-March. That’s borne out of the fact that he and the Chargers have been unable to make progress on a new contract. He has been a key player for the Chargers. As such, Ekeler’s value could potentially bring in a nice pick or even multiple picks for the team. During the annual NFL owner’s meetings, Chargers GM Tom Telesco reportedly revealed that the team has made no firm decisions on who they will be drafting this year. In fact, they may look to acquire more picks by trading down. To nobody’s surprise, Ekeler should be their most-valued trade piece at the moment.
And while Ekeler has been a crucial player for the Chargers’ offense, the team may be willing to let him go for the right price. To give an idea of his potential value, keep in mind that cornerback Jalen Ramsey and tight end Darren Waller were both recently traded for third-round picks. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts received a fifth-round pick for cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Of course, Gilmore is 32, though he still had a productive 2022 season. It remains to be seen if Ekeler will indeed be traded and what his ultimate value will be.
Let’s look at the perfect trade the Los Angeles Chargers must complete in the 2023 offseason.
Trade Austin Ekeler for a draft pick and another playmaker
Once again, take note that running back Austin Ekeler has been granted permission by the Chargers to seek a trade this offseason. As far as we’re concerned, the green light has been lit. We expect that as he enters the final year of his deal, Ekeler wants to find a team that will pay him his market value. Of course, we also project that there could be potential suitors offering different trade packages.
Austin Ekeler rushes it in and the Chargers take the QUICK 7-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/bMcBBFzWjR
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 15, 2023
We also feel that any version of an Ekeler trade should involve the Chargers receiving picks and NFL talent in return. One potential trade partner could be the Cincinnati Bengals. We think they may be willing to part with one of their picks to acquire Ekeler.
Here’s why this could make sense for both squads. The addition of Ekeler to the Bengals’ backfield alongside quarterback Joe Burrow would be a perfect fit. Again, Ekeler is an elite dual-threat running back. Since he is in the last year of his contract, a third or fourth-round draft pick may be enough to entice the Chargers to trade him. This would also enable the Bengals to upgrade from Joe Mixon and save $10 million. On the other end, the Chargers could use that pick to draft a young running back they can develop.
Now, while we can argue that Mixon is a serviceable running back for the Bengals, he lacks the explosiveness that Ekeler has. Remember that in the 2022 season, Mixon averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and 1.5 yards after contact per carry. That ranked 35th out of 46 qualifying players. The Bengals have not yet decided how they will approach Mixon’s situation. However, releasing him after June 1 would save them the aforementioned $10 million in cap space for the 2023 season.
Of course, the Bengals will; wait and see how things play out before making any decisions. It’s possible that adding a new running back to the team could make Mixon expendable, but the team may also consider drafting one.
If the Chargers decide to trade Ekeler, they should aim to get an instant difference-maker in return. However, it’s also possible to find gems in later rounds of the draft, as has been the case in the past. Here’s where a third or fourth-round draft pick could prove to be just as valuable.
That said, the Dallas Cowboys could also be a potential trade partner for the Chargers. In an ideal scenario, shipping Ekeler to Dallas would net a late-round draft pick and RB Tony Pollard for the Chargers. However, Pollard’s franchise tag may complicate things. The Chargers would also need to agree on a long-term deal with him for the trade to be possible.
Nonetheless, new Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has had success with Pollard in Dallas before. Their familiarity with each other should be an asset for Los Angeles. Pollard’s skills as a two-way playmaker could also be beneficial to Justin Herbert. Pollard should also offer more in the running game compared to Ekeler. On the other hand, the Cowboys could see Ekeler as a cheaper option than Pollard. Ekeler would also be an additional standout target for Dak Prescott.
On the flip side, the Chargers’ reluctance to pay running backs and Herbert’s upcoming contract extension could pose challenges in any potential trade scenario. Nevertheless, the Chargers have been aggressive in recent years. They may then choose to go all-in before the salary cap becomes an issue. While losing Ekeler would be a setback, trades like the ones mentioned here could potentially improve the team moving forward.
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