Melvin Gordon gains nothing by sitting out the full year

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Last year, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell won his freedom from Pittsburgh by sitting out the entire season. This year, with Chargers running back Melvin Gordon threatening to do the same thing, some think that, like Bell, Gordon could end up forcing his way to free agency by literally doing nothing.

But there’s a big difference between the two players. Bell’s path to free agency came from the specific rules regarding the franchise tag. With Bell sitting out all of the season in which the franchise tag had been applied to him for a second time, the Steelers would have had to offer a franchise tender fueled by quarterback salaries in order to franchise tag Bell for a third time. The Steelers chose not to do that, and the Steelers also chose not to apply the right-of-first-refusal-only transition tag, which the Steelers eventually learned would have cost as much as Bell’s franchise tag would have cost in 2018 (i.e., $14.52 million).

Gordon still has a year left on his rookie contract. Sitting out the full year would simply push the final year of his rookie contract to 2020, at the same $5.605 million he’s due to make this year.

If Gordon chooses to miss regular-season games, he’d need to return by the Tuesday after Week 10 (but probably earlier due to the roster exemption for which the Chargers would be eligible) in order to get credit for the fifth and final year of his contract. The Chargers could still use the franchise tag or the transition tag on Gordon in 2020, but there’s no guarantee that they would.

Even if the Chargers franchise-tag Gordon, his salary would more than double for 2020. He then could skip all of the offseason program, training camp, and the preseason at no expense, he could make the full amount of his franchise tender by showing up as late as Labor Day weekend, and then he could sit out all of 2021 (if franchise-tagged again), forcing his way to free agency like Bell did for 2022.

That’s all theoretical. As a practical matter, Gordon needs to realize that, regardless of his personal beliefs as to the value of running backs, teams don’t see it that way. At any given moment in time, only a small handful of running backs are truly special (currently, they are Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, and maybe Le’Veon Bell). Every special back is only one year or one big hit away from being readily replaceable but a much cheaper, younger, and healthier option right out of college.

Gordon falls into that “readily replaceable” category. He’ll find that out if/when he holds out, if/when he demands a trade, and if/when no team offers the Chargers significant compensation and Gordon market-value money in order to make a deal happen.

That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t take a stand. It’s good to see players who are willing to defy and disrupt a system that, for many of them, simply isn’t fair. But any player who takes that stand needs to be standing on firm, solid ground. Gordon’s ground may not be nearly as firm or solid as he seems to think it is.

19 responses to “Melvin Gordon gains nothing by sitting out the full year

  1. It will be really interesting to see if there’s something new in the next CBA to help running backs picked in the first round of the draft. With their shorter shelf life they get a tough draw.

  2. Here’s a plan go out and play football and if you play well cash in then. What a novel approach.

  3. It’s good to see players who are willing to defy and disrupt a system that, for many of them, simply isn’t fair.
    This is an excellent point.

    Perhaps the duration of NFL rookie contracts should vary by position based on a fixed % of the average length of a career for that position.

    Of course, if an NFL rookie contract for a RB was 2 years instead of 4 or 5, teams may be even less apt to draft a RB in an early round, if at all.

  4. RBs have to appreciate their line as well.
    This shows time after time. Most recently with LeSean McCoy. When he was running behind Richie Incognito, Eric Wood and Cordy Glenn he was in the Pro Bowl.
    Last year running behind dudes who were not opening massive holes , he averaged 3.6 up and his career is in jeopardy.
    RBs. You are part of a team.

  5. The Chargers are a very serious contender, and Phillip Rivers’ window isn’t going to be open much longer. I love Melvin Gordon, but this is poor timing. With the salary cap, teams can only pay a certain amount for the entire payroll. So by paying Gordon more money, one or more of his teammates are going to have to take pay cuts. That should go over great in the locker room. I’d hold a team meeting and ask if anyone was willing to take a pay cut for Melvin. Melvin has made it clear that he doesn’t care about winning, so there’s a good chance he’ll be in a different uniform soon. Hope he gets with an elite QB that opposing defenses have to key on like he has in San Diego (L.A.). As good as LeVeon Bell is, Roethlisberger’s two super bowls happened prior to Bell joining the Steelers. They didn’t win any with Bell (or Antonio Brown). It’s a QB league.

  6. “running backs get a tough draw’
    change positions then or professions. you knew the deal going in and if you didnt, thats on you and your representation
    thinking you are going to be the agent of change vs a CBA
    is just not real smart.

  7. NO sport has salaries slotted solely on the position they play. Where in Hockey or baseball or BB do you see rules in affect to pay certain positions x amount or more than other positions. its ridiculous to suggest such

  8. Gordo simply does not have the career numbers to support his delusional belief that he is elite and should command elite money. This will not end well for him.

  9. The NFLPA agreed to the CBA. If a player is unhappy with it he should complain to his union rep.
    It’s not like Gordon hasn’t been paid and will be underpaid this year.
    He had one good year out of 4.
    Running backs do have short careers. But after 2019 he will have earned almost $16 million.

  10. Mike Trout made about 8.5 million after 5 years. What if he got injured?
    Kawhi Leonard made about 8 miliion after 4 years. What if he got hurt?
    Alex Ovechkin made 3 million total in his first 3 seasons. What if he got hurt?

    New members of a union almost always get lower pay. They make up for it with obscene pay later in their careers.

    Some people cried about Ryan Howard’s huge contract at the end of his career. He earned it by making just over a million total in his first 3 years as he was ROY and later MVP.

    This is not a football running back thing.
    Get some insurance and shut up.

  11. 4yrs in the league and he’s played a full 16 games ONCE. Chargers were 4-0 without him last year. “But he’s a GREAT back and DESERVES to get paid.” Trade his ass. Austin Ekeler & Justin Jackson are cheaper options and just as effective, plus Detrez Newsome will be the guy to watch this preseason. He broke off a couple 45 & 60+ yard runs last year in the preseason. Gordon is replaceable. Save the money for Bosa.

  12. I don’t think he’d get a top of the market contract even if he was a free agent right now. He’s not that caliber of player. Good back but not a great one and you can get a good RB without investing a lot of money or draft capital. I don’t see how he has much leverage here. He can’t sit the full season without his contract simply rolling to next year and no team is going to give up draft capital and give him a big contract to acquire him.

  13. Let’s cut to the chase here.

    EVERY NFL PLAYER HAS REPRESENTATION. It is the JOB of the AGENT to inform his client of the contract and the terms PRIOR to signing. If a player signs the contract, they should be bound to the terms no matter how insulting it is to a certain position he plays. If a player fails to adhere to the full term and seeks to extort his team, he should be made ineligible to play for the season by the start of training camp and should forfeit all salaries and bonuses and have that year he forfeited to the following year. It would be his OBLIGATION to play the season. Injury insurance coverage is freely available and should have been part of negotiations on the rookie contract.

    We need to end these nose out of joint players who suddenly have a problem with the contract they signed as an adult. If the contract was so bad, you can always not sign it and join the real world of 9-5 jobs (or in Melvin’s case, working at Jack in the Box).

  14. He’s really painting himself into a corner. He should have just showed up, collecting his 5.6 million and have a good year. Surrounded by decent line and QB he probably would have put up enough numbers to get paid elsewhere still in his prime.

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