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Why Melvin Gordon Faces an Uphill Climb to Get the Contract He Wants

The Chargers RB is entering the fifth year of his rookie contract and threatening to hold out if he doesn’t get a long-term deal with guaranteed money. But is he worth that contract?

Best of luck, Melvin Gordon.

Perhaps inspired by Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell before him, the 2015 first-round pick planted his flag this week; a not-so-subtle message to the Chargers that they may not see him for a long time in lieu of a paycheck. One of his agents, Damarius Bilbo, told the NFL Network that“He’s very serious (about holding out). He’s worked his butt off and the fifth-year option is a result of where he was drafted. It’s what it is. But if we’d gotten a respectable offer, we wouldn’t be here. But he felt disrespected. He’s very serious.”

It seems unlikely that this would cause the Chargers to shudder. In the last four years, Gordon has one 1,000-yard season, one sixteen-game season in four years and one season of more than four yards per carry. Their head coach, Anthony Lynn, is a former NFL running back and long-time running backs coach. If there were any position he believed he could—and has—developed in his life, wouldn’t it be the one Gordon is playing? The counter-argument there is that Lynn has a unique understanding of the value of a true, game-breaking running back, though both Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson performed well in mop-up duty last year.

Gordon’s agents wouldn’t be his agents if they weren’t trying. Gordon would never know if the Chargers truly valued him without first staging the holdout. This is the state of play in the NFL. Robust markets create a real value, and one way to get a visual of the market is to create the perception that you might soon join it. Though Gordon’s agents have yet to get permission to seek a trade, it’s not clear what that value would be, and whether it would net the Chargers more than they would receive via a compensatory selection if they were to let him go. Off the top of my head, I could count about a half-dozen teams in contention that might see Gordon as a marked upgrade.

Gordon may end up as the barometer of which running backs need to clear in order to attain that long-term deal. Contrary to the masses, I’m not inclined to believe that Gurley’s knee condition will sabotage the future of long-term running back deals, or spark an unreasonable fear among general managers the next time a running back sits at the negotiating table. There is reason to believe that Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey will eventually cement the outrageous standard running backs need to meet in order to receive a lucrative long-term extension.

Barring a massive change, the key word is outrageous. Bell helped redefine the position in the modern era and still had to sit out an entire season, and catch a desperate, cash-flinging general manager at the end of his rope in order to nab a slice of what he was truly worth at his peak. Can Gordon create the same kind of hysteria for his services?

That’s what offseason contract posturing is for, and I'm here for it.

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