Hear Me Out: An Austin Ekeler Trade Would Make a Lot of Sense for the Bears
No one thought the Bears could realistically get D.J. Moore from the Panthers as part of a trade out of the No. 1 spot.
And yet, GM Ryan Poles was able to successfully pull it off.
With that in mind, I refuse to cut off the possibility of another trade in the near future. The NFL is just too unpredictable to speak in absolutes and say that there is no way Poles couldn’t do it again. Also, I’m not a Sith Lord — and we know only the Sith speak in absolutes. And while that is an absolute, we can look past that in order to discuss the possibility of Austin Ekeler. The Chargers running back asked for (and has been given the green light to seek) a trade.
Consider my interest piqued:
Ekeler, 27, is a scoring and all-purpose yardage machine. Over the last two seasons, Ekeler has been given 587 touches, gained 3,195 scrimmage yards, and scored 38 touchdowns. On the ground, Ekeler has averaged 4.5 yards per carry since the start of the 2021 season. In the air, he has caught 80.1 percent of the passes thrown his way, put up 7.7 yards per reception, and hit the end zone 13 times. Ekeler is entering the final year of his contract and wants a big payday. I can’t say I blame him. And what better team than the Bears? Their top rusher last year is hitting free agency and the team could seek a replacement.
Before you scoff and roll your eyes, I want you to hear me out.
Firstly, the Bears could conceivably trade for Ekeler and not pay a steep price (because Ekeler’s public trade request and search for a new contract takes away some of the Chargers’ negotiation leverage). That would soften any concerns about a potential overpay on that front.
Secondly, the Bears still have approximately $45 million in space under the cap. GM Ryan Poles doesn’t have to use it all this year, but the team still has work to do in order to get to the salary floor. An easy way to do that could be by acquiring and extending Ekeler. For what it’s worth, Ekeler’s current deal comes with a $6.125M AAV. Doubling that and giving him something in the $12 million per year range would put him in the top 10 while not being prohibitive long-term.
Thirdly, we’ve seen what Ekeler’s presence can do for a young, developing quarterback — and I want that for Justin Fields. Don’t get me wrong, I realize Justin Herbert had Keenan Allen and others to target in the passing game. But he also had Ekeler doing everything out of the backfield. Ekeler’s ability to play roles as chief ball carrier, safety valve check-down option and primary receiver out of the backfield adds depth and layers to the Chargers’ offense. And I’d like for the Bears’ offense to run that way.
To be clear, I’m not angling for the Bears to sell the farm to get Ekeler. After all, there are draft options that intrigue me. Plus, there are free agent fits that make sense to round out the room. Oh … and we can’t forget that Khalil Herbert can still cook. But in an attempt to build a modern offense, I’m looking for the Bears to seek playmakers. There are few backs who fit that description the way Ekeler does. At a minimum, Poles should be checking in and inquiring on the asking price. If there is a fair deal to be made, then make it. But if there isn’t, then move along.