It started as a request from the player, and it’s now been granted by the team: Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler, who leads the NFL in touchdowns the past two seasons, has been given permission to seek a trade. Other teams like the Commanders and Lions might also be potential fits, but these five teams are the best and most realistic landing spots for Ekeler.
The Bears have been extremely aggressive early this offseason, both with free agency and their trading out of the No. 1 overall pick while adding wide receiver D.J. Moore in the process. And with the extra picks acquired in the trade with the Panthers, the Bears have more draft capital to make a deal for Ekeler. Justin Fields could use an outlet like Ekeler, the star running back would form an exceptional duo with emerging runner Khalil Herbert, and Chicago has the cap space to pull this off and pay Ekeler if they want to continue beefing up around Fields.
Speaking of making things easier on the quarterback, the rookie that the Panthers select could certainly use a weapon like Ekeler as a security blanket. Of course, Carolina is already hurting in terms of draft capital after giving up the picks to move up to No. 1, but it’s possible an Ekeler deal actually doesn’t cost a ton considering the contract demands and depth at running back in this year’s draft. The Panthers are currently hurting for weapons, especially after trading Moore, and adding Ekeler would help there. Also, new assistant head coach and running backs coach Duce Staley feels like someone that would love to utilize Ekeler.
The Falcons aren’t paying a lot of money at quarterback, and overall there’s cap space to bring Ekeler to Atlanta. The team is happy with Tyler Allgeier’s rookie season, but he and Ekeler could form a strong thunder and lightning type of duo under a head coach (Arthur Smith) that clearly wants to run the ball a ton. And like the Bears and the Panthers, Ekeler can make things easier on a young quarterback like Desmond Ridder or a rookie if the Falcons go that route.
People have been clamoring for the Bills to add Derrick Henry or Austin Ekeler this offseason to help create more balance on offense, and we now know that Ekeler is 100% available for trade—while the same cannot be said about Henry amid conflicting reports. The Bills are expecting big things from 2022 second-round pick James Cook, but this is a team that wants to win now and would undoubtedly get a boost from one of the NFL’s top touchdown-makers from the past two years.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were in heavily on Christian McCaffrey last season before losing out to the division rival 49ers, so why not go after a likely cheaper option (CMC took four draft picks to acquire) in Ekeler? Things have maybe changed with all the moves the Rams have made this offseason in shedding talent and salary, but they still have an aging quarterback in Matthew Stafford and a superstar weapon in Cooper Kupp—perhaps part of that plan is to totally stack the offense and try to win shootouts under Sean McVay.