The San Diego Chargers selected running back Melvin Gordon in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, among the first running backs to go in the first round after a slide that saw the position blanked in the early portion of the draft.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell’s breakout season of 2014, during which he totaled over 2000 yards from scrimmage, was named first-team All-Pro, and helped the team get back to the postseason after missing out for two straight years, was one of the biggest reasons that the running back position was being treated less dismissively at that point.
Gordon knew that. He appreciated that. And he was also one of the most vocal supporters of Bell over the course of the previous two offseasons as he pursued a long-term contract extension that was heavy on fully guaranteed figures. He opted to play under the franchise tag in 2017, but skipped the 2018 season.
Back in February of this year, I wrote about comments that the two-time Pro Bowl running back made regarding Bell’s pending free agency the following month, during which he ultimately signed with the New York Jets on a deal that gave him the most in full guarantees that a running back had ever signed.
“I’m waiting. I’m sitting back waiting, waiting on Bell”, Gordon, who is scheduled to play under his fifth-year option worth under $6 million per season. “I’m glad it’s changing because we (running backs) were getting devalued for a little bit. But me, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, I can go down a whole list, Bell, you name it, ‘Zeke,’ just game-changers, Alvin Kamara, all those guys”.
Some of those guys did not have the greatest season to support that argument, namely Johnson, or at least had injury issues that question the viability of high-dollar long-term contracts at the position, but players like Gordon are still watching and looking to Bell as the pioneer for the new running back market frontier that he talked about wanting to be all the way back in 2017.
The fifth-year veteran recently made it known through his representation that he intends to hold out, his agent saying that “he’s very serious” about it. “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 was further added that he intends to sit out as long as it is necessary, and that if he is not compensated fairly for his services, he wants to be traded.
In effect, this is really not much different than what Bell chose to do last season, giving up a year of salary—assuming that Gordon follows through with his threat to hold out—to serve a broader purpose. Meanwhile, the media hounds have been out to quickly make the counter argument that he is not worth the investment, which should surprise nobody.
Regardless of what anybody feels of Gordon’s decision, whether it’s right or wrong, smart or stupid, there can be no dispute that he is well within his rights to take the approach he is threatening to take. There will be consequences for his decision, but as long as he is prepared to weather that, then that’s all that matters.