Austin Ekeler, Chargers reach truce on final year of contract

The Chargers have added $1.75 million in incentives to the contract of Austin Ekeler, according to a source not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The development represents a truce in the running back’s dissatisfaction with the team over his current deal.

Ekeler is entering the final season of a four-year, $24.5-million contract that includes a 2023 base salary of $6.25 million. The deal ranks 13th in average annual value among NFL running backs.

Frustrated with the progress of talks on an extension, Ekeler was granted permission by the Chargers in March to seek a trade.

With little interest in a financially tightening running back market, Ekeler instead was able to secure the extra incentives. He’s scheduled to be a free agent after this season.

Ekeler, who turned 28 this month, has not been participating in the Chargers’ voluntary offseason program, which has been his standard approach in recent years. Coach Brandon Staley said Monday that he expects Ekeler to attend the team’s two-day mandatory minicamp in June.

During his six years with the Chargers, Ekeler has 3,727 yards rushing, 3,448 yards receiving and 63 touchdowns in 89 games. He tops the NFL with 38 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

Losing Ekeler would have been a blow to a Chargers offense that now has a new coordinator in Kellen Moore and increased hopes of being more explosive in 2023.

He originally signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Western State in Colorado in 2017.

During his rookie training camp, Ekeler gained attention first on special teams and eventually earned a roster spot based on his performance in the Chargers’ preseason finale that year.

He backed up Melvin Gordon his first two seasons and proved himself capable of starting when Gordon held out in a contract dispute to start 2019.

The Chargers then allowed Gordon to depart in free agency and turned the starting job over to Ekeler.

He has led the Chargers in rushing in each of the last three seasons and has caught at least 54 passes in every season since 2019.

Ekeler has become a fan favorite who celebrates his touchdowns by strumming an imaginary guitar.

He also has established himself as one of the NFL’s most popular players among fantasy football owners because of his on-field production.