Source: Chargers' Austin Ekeler staying, with $1.75M in incentives

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Two months after requesting a trade, Chargers running back Austin Ekeler will remain in Los Angeles for the final season of his contract, with $1.75 million in incentives added to his deal, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Ekeler, who turned 28 earlier this month, was scheduled to earn $6.25 million in the fourth and final season of a $24.5 million extension.

He remains bound for free agency after the season.

Ekeler was absent Monday as the Chargers began voluntary organized team activities, but coach Brandon Staley emphasized respect for Ekeler when asked about his ongoing situation.

"The current state with Austin is that he's one of the top backs in the league over the last two seasons. He's been a captain for us," Staley said. "We really have the utmost respect for him and the situation."

It is unclear whether Ekeler will now report to OTAs. He opted last offseason to not attend because of other business pursuits.

Staley did say, however, that he "for sure" expected Ekeler to attend the team's mandatory minicamp that begins June 13.

Last season, Ekeler played a critical role in the Chargers advancing to the playoffs for the first time in four years before they were eliminated in a 31-30 wild-card playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In 17 starts, Ekeler scored an NFL-best 18 touchdowns, while rushing for a team-high 915 yards and catching 107 passes for 702 yards. An often-used target out of the backfield, Ekeler also led the NFL with 822 yards after the catch.

"We stand behind him and he's one of those guys that we support no matter what," quarterback Justin Herbert said last month of Ekeler's trade request. "He's a guy that shows up and he plays hard and he works about as hard as anyone on and off the field."

In March, Ekeler told Chris Long on the "Greenlight" podcast that he is "so underpaid right now."

Ekeler's average salary of $6.125 million ranked 13th in the NFL, according to OvertheCap.com, with 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey atop the chart earning an average of $16 million per season.

Ekeler expressed a desire to sign a long-term extension, whether with the Chargers or another team, but also said he had no ill will toward the Chargers and would like to remain with the organization.

At the conclusion of the NFL draft last month, general manager Tom Telesco said "nope" when asked if any teams had expressed an interest in trading for Ekeler, setting in motion what appeared to be his likely return to L.A.

Ekeler is anticipated to play a pivotal role in the offense again this season, but this time under the direction of first-year coordinator Kellen Moore, who took over the position after spending the previous four seasons serving as the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator.

"Certainly, from my vantage point, what Austin has done has been remarkable," Moore said earlier this offseason.

Since entering the NFL in 2017 as an undrafted free agent from Western Colorado, Ekeler ranks 11th among active players with 7,175 total scrimmage yards.

His return ensures stability in the backfield, where the Chargers have struggled to fortify a dependable backup rotation.

The Bolts also return fourth-year pro Joshua Kelley, who last season rushed for 287 yards and two scores, and Isaiah Spiller, a fourth-round pick last year who rushed for only 41 yards.

Since the Chargers signed Ekeler, he has amassed 63 touchdowns, joining Hall of Famer Lenny Moore as the only players in NFL history to record at least 25 rushing and 25 receiving touchdowns in their first six seasons.