'I'm so underpaid right now': Austin Ekeler still in pursuit of long-term deal

What does the market look like for Austin Ekeler? (0:46)

Adam Schefter breaks down what a potential trade for running back Austin Ekeler from the Chargers would entail. (0:46)

COSTA MESA, Calif. – Running back Austin Ekeler has made clear that despite requesting permission to seek a trade he would like to remain with the Los Angeles Chargers.

However, only under the correct circumstances.

“I’m getting half my value of what I could be getting,” Ekeler told former NFL player Chris Long on the Greenlight podcast. “So it’s like, I’m relentlessly pursuing someone who wants me for the long term.”

Ekeler is scheduled to earn $6.25 million in the upcoming fourth and final season of a $24.5 million deal and last week requested permission from the Chargers to seek a trade after discussions about a contract extension did not progress. The Chargers granted his request.

“We’re kind of in a spot where I’ve been outplaying my contract and we might have an opportunity to go seek out other options that can bring me up,” said Ekeler, who turns 28 in May. “It was put out there that the Chargers kind of put a block on the talks of an extension so I was like, ‘OK, if you don’t see me in your long-term future right now then give us an opportunity to go talk and see if someone else might.’”

Ekeler led the NFL with 18 touchdowns and gained 1,637 all-purpose yards last season, playing a crucial role in the Chargers advancing to the postseason for the first time since 2018.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley described Ekeler last December as a “stud” for the offense as it forged through the season despite multiple key players suffering injuries.

“His consistency in performance, and it’s not just performance at the game, it’s the performance at practice, the performance in the meeting rooms and the weight room,” Staley said. “He is just a total stabilizer.”

Over the last two seasons, he has scored 38 touchdowns -- 12 more than the next closest player. And in the six seasons since the Chargers signed Ekeler as an undrafted free agent from Western State Colorado, he has amassed 63 touchdowns, joining Hall of Famer Lenny Moore as the only players in NFL history to record 25 rushing and 25 receiving touchdowns in their first six seasons in the NFL.

New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is expected to build depth at the position, which has lacked in recent seasons, and appeared eager to work with Ekeler during his introductory news conference last month.

“From my vantage point, what Austin has done has been remarkable,” said Moore, who orchestrated one of the NFL’s top-rated offenses last season featuring running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in Dallas.

Ekeler said there was no timeline for when he would like to settle his situation, one that could be somewhat complicated given any team interested would need to compensate the Chargers to acquire Ekeler, plus negotiate a new contract.

“I’m so underpaid right now as far as my contract and what I contribute to the team,” he said. “I am relentlessly pursuing this. I want to get something long-term done. I want a team that wants me long-term because look, I’m at the peak of my game.”

No player in the NFL last the 50 seasons has led the league in touchdowns and joined a new team the following season.

Among the challenges that Ekeler is facing in pursuit of a new deal, the running back market has experienced a downturn and recently saw New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard get franchise tagged at $10.1 million.

“It is brutal out here, It’s terrible as far as the running back market and how we’re being treated,” Ekeler said. “And look, I get it. I 100 percent get it. There is more risk within paying running backs.”