For the record, Chargers tailback Ryan Mathews enters the final year of his contract in 2014. And for the record, he’s never given any indication that he would consider holding out in hope of a new deal.
In an interview with Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune for a story published Saturday, former Chargers tailback LaDainian Tomlinson said Mathews’ best bargaining chip for his second pro contract will be doing his job.
“My advice to Ryan would be just to ball out like he did this past season, and everything will take care of itself,” Tomlinson, now an NFL Network analyst, told the Union-Tribune. “You go to everything in the offseason. You prove your worth to the team by being there, not by being absent.”
The 26-year-old Mathews rushed for a career-high 1,255 yards in 2013. He played all 16 regular-season games for the first time in his pro career, though he was limited with an ankle injury in the postseason.
Gehlken’s piece does well to consider the matter of a veteran running back’s leverage in a time where NFL teams seem less and less willing to devote significant financial resources to the position. While Mathews has one year left until free agency, Oakland’s Darren McFadden, Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew and Houston’s Ben Tate will be among the backs who can test the market this March.