Three weeks into the regular season, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon has ended his holdout and is planning to return to the team on Thursday, according to Ian Rapoport.
The 26-year-old Gordon, drafted in 2015, is in the final year of his rookie deal, which would have paid him $5.605 million for a full season of work. The former Wisconsin Badger made it known back in July that he wasn’t reporting to training camp without a new contract—one comparable to the top backs in the NFL—and wanted to be traded if he wasn’t getting a new deal. The team played hardball with him, ending extension talks at the beginning of September. And though they granted Gordon permission to seek a trade, he obviously couldn’t find a suitable one, so he chose to return instead of potentially sitting out the whole season.
Gordon’s situation showed just how little negotiation leverage any running back has in today’s NFL. Though he was a crucial part of the Chargers offense for four years—rushing 897 times and catching 182 passes—his absence at running back isn’t why the team is 1-2. Austin Ekeler, Gordon’s primary replacement, has averaged over 122 total yards per game so far this season, and presents himself as major competition for Gordon as the returning back tries to play himself into a big contract this offseason. In the meantime, he’s out nearly a million bucks without anything to show for it.