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How the Chargers handle Melvin Gordon’s contract demands could influence market for Ezekiel Elliott

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Melvin Gordon getting paid would be very good for the business of Ezekiel Elliott.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday got off to an interesting start around the NFL thanks to a report that Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is telling his team to either pay him or trade him. That’s bold.

Gordon is one of the game’s better runners out of the backfield and was certainly a big reason why the Chargers experienced success last season. Los Angeles has an enviable young core of players, Gordon among them, but we’re talking about a running back here ultimately. We know full well how they’re valued, or rather how they are not valued, in today’s game of football.

Should the Chargers indeed bend the knee to their top carrier they’ll likely make him a very rich man. Gordon is entering the fifth year of his rookie contract so he’s due to get hit free agency before Ezekiel Elliott, but how things shake out with him will very much influence how the Cowboys likely deal with their own situation at running back.

Why would Gordon’s situation influence Elliott’s? Well, they’re both running backs. They were both taken in the first round just a year apart. And if you’re Zeke, you’ve got Gordon beat in just about every major statistical category despite playing one less season and change.

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Melvin Gordon

Zeke vs. Gordon Ezekiel Elliott Melvin Gordon
Zeke vs. Gordon Ezekiel Elliott Melvin Gordon
Games Played 40 55
Rushing Attempts 868 897
Rushing Yards 4,048 3,628
Yards Per Carry 4.66 4.04
Yards Per Game 101.2 65.96
Rushing TDs 28 28
Receptions 135 182
Receiving Yards 1,199 1,577
Receiving TDs 6 10
Total Yards 5,247 5,205
Total TDs 34 38
Total Yards Per Game 131.18 94.64

If someone were to consider Gordon among the game’s best backs, they’d have to be absolutely floored by what Zeke has done in less time. There’s no denying Elliott’s greatness, it’s just a matter of whether or not you’re willing to pay for it.

You can line Zeke up to just about any running back in the NFL and he’s going to compare favorably, two rushing titles in three seasons will steer things in that direction. However, the gap between Gordon and Elliott is so wide and significant that if Gordon does land a huge deal that puts him among the highest-paid running backs, it is really going to make Zeke expensive.

Often times in the NFL it’s a matter of who is next and beating somebody else who’s in the running. For now the Cowboys seem to have placed the contract extensions of Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper higher up on the priority list, but if any running backs get paid while those things are being negotiated, then it’s only going to make Ezekiel Elliott all the more expensive.

Like, really expensive.