The Chargers and running back Melvin Gordon continue to be at an impasse, with no end in sight to the tailback’s holdout. But a window could be sliding open for a face-saving conclusion to the dispute.
“I’m disappointed it has lasted this long,” G.M. Tom Telesco recently said, via Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com. “I pride myself in having solutions to problems, and I haven’t solved this one yet. We know what he means to our team, and even bigger than that what he means to our organization. But the other side is we have a big game coming up this week with the Colts, and I’m confident in the players that we have on the field right now will play well.”
A potential solution, short of a new long-term contract, could come in the form of dangling to Gordon a full waiver of the fine he has racked up during his holdout. Under the specific rules of the labor deal, Gordon’s status under the fifth-year option means that his daily fines were $30,000 (not $40,000). However, the Chargers also have the express ability under the rules applicable to the fifth-year option to fine Gordon the amount of a regular-season game check for each preseason game he missed.
At $5.605 million for the full season, that’s a weekly fine of $329,000 throughout the preseason. In all, he owes $1.31 million for skipping the four exhibition games, along with daily fines that will push the final amount due toward $2 million. So if the Chargers offer to wipe the slate clean if Gordon reports this week, he’ll avoid the fines and collect his weekly salary. Then, after the season, he’ll become a free agent — barring application of the franchise tag or the transition tag.
That may not be enough to get it done, but with the Chargers not budging and no one showing serious interest in trading for Gordon, his best play could be to do what former Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew did in 2012: Surrender.
Because Gordon is so close to free agency, chances are he won’t stay away for more than six weeks of the regular season, in order to ensure that the final year of his contract is satisfied. But he’ll give up roughly $2 million in pay if he does that, and the fines will still be on the books.
So if the Chargers want to take a crack at ending the holdout before Week One without giving Gordon the long-term deal he wants, the best move could be to offer a full cancellation of the fines, along with a threat/promise to collect every penny if his holdout lasts into the regular season.