COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Melvin Gordon spent the 2019 offseason pushing for a new contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. The two sides couldn't work out a deal, resulting in Gordon holding out into the regular season.
But while Gordon didn't land an extension, he still remains interested in re-signing with the Chargers in 2020.
"Of course," Gordon says. "They drafted me and changed my life. They took a bet on me. Took a chance on me when 31 other teams could have and passed me up. They're like your first love so to speak. I want to be here, man. I got great relationships with everybody around here. I love everyone from [the locker room] to the people on the staff, in the training room, to the equipment guys. I got a relationship with everybody around here, not just the guys in here. Hopefully, we can work it out. But like I know, like y'all know, like everybody else knows, it's a business and we got to figure out where things go. I'm just really sitting back, man. I'm open to this whole thing and I'm a little nervous, as everybody is whose contract is up. Hopefully, it works out for the best."
Gordon initially struggled upon returning to the field in October but rounded into form over the subsequent months. He drew praise from head coach Anthony Lynn, who values Gordon's power and nose for the end zone.
Still, the Chargers face a difficult decision regarding a new contract. General manager Tom Telesco values Gordon after investing the 15th overall pick and five years in him. However, the emergence of versatile running back Austin Ekeler and the solid efficiency of backup Justin Jackson have made Los Angeles' backfield crowded. Meanwhile, the team also has to consider re-signing quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Hunter Henry, starting guard Michael Schofield, and others this offseason. Doing so would deplete the resources available for Gordon.
Additionally, the market for running backs remains uncertain after several big contracts have come back to bite teams. The Los Angeles Rams signed Todd Gurley to a multiyear extension before the 2018 season. Though he delivered his best individual campaign, a chronic knee issue derailed him during the playoffs and into 2019. The New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, and Dallas Cowboys also received less than ideal results from Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott, respectively. That trend could have a chilling effect on the market and how the Chargers perceive Gordon's worth.
"I really don't know," Gordon says. "People want to look at Bell. I've seen that video with his coach. Don't even sound like he want him over there. And he's on a tough team. It's hard, you know? Todd had a decent year, but not the year that he's usually having, and David Johnson. Zeke's having a good year, I think. But I don't know. I don't really know what the market's going to be. There's a lot of good backs that are up. I know Alvin Kamara and them guys' contracts probably aren't up, but hopefully they can be there. It's their third year going into their fourth so they can restructure something.
"I'm not asking to be the top paid. I wouldn't mind it, but it is what it is."
If the Chargers decide to move in another direction, Gordon has complicated feelings about his legacy with the team. While he contributed to much of the team's recent success, he also doesn't feel he reached his potential due to factors outside of his control.
"I think injuries kind of took from what could be a great career thus far," Gordon says. "I got great years kind of taken from me. Going 997 [rushing yards] with like three or four games left. Having that stellar season last year and then being taken away, trying to come back with two braces. It could have been a lot better, but I'm not hanging my head down towards what I've down thus far."
With the season over, the Chargers' front office will begin to discuss contracts again. Gordon knows that he might not return but also understands that all options remain on the table.
"It's just a waiting game," Gordon says. "Sit and wait. See if I'm going to hit the market or see if we work something out. We have so many guys they'll try to re-sign. I'd kind of hate to be the guys upstairs."
"We all waiting, all of us in the locker room. We're kind of waiting to see what's going to go on. I know we all want to be here, but ideally I don't know if we'll all be here."
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH