Though the Los Angeles Chargers tabled extension talks with Melvin Gordon at the conclusion of the preseason, the running backs' prolonged holdout has a new wrinkle. Klutch Sports Group, the powerhouse sports agency known for representing numerous NBA stars, has entered into talks with Gordon's agent Damarius Bilbo to run their football operations.
ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news.
Over the past decade, Klutch Sports Group and its founder Rich Paul have played a prominent role behind the scenes in NBA player movement. Star basketball players increasingly have taken control of their careers, forcing their way out of unfavorable situations and combining with other stars to form so-called super teams. Most recently, All-NBA big Anthony Davis forced a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers, the current home of LeBron James. Klutch Sports Group represents both players.
The agency does not currently represent any football clients, though that would change if and when Bilbo joins its ranks. In addition to Gordon, Bilbo's current client roster includes Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, and New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara. Over the past 16 months, Landry and Howard have each signed multiyear extensions that rank among the top 10 in average value at their respective positions. Kamara becomes eligible for a new contract next offseason and could command a top-of-the-market deal.
Exactly how an acquisition of Bilbo would affect Gordon's holdout remains unclear. It wouldn't necessarily indicate that Gordon and his camp would push harder for a trade out of Los Angeles, though that prospect falls in line with how Klutch Sports Group has handled its NBA clients in the past. The Chargers gave Gordon permission to locate a trade partner back in the summer, empowering the running back and his representation to find a more favorable situation elsewhere.
The emergence of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson give the Chargers little motivation to change course with Gordon, but another franchise might value the veteran running back differently. A dozen teams finished Week 1 without a player rushing for 50 yards or more. Of those, Washington, the San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals all saw their starter go down with injuries. The Houston Texans also seem like a viable candidate given their devil-may-care approach to the trade market since firing general manager Brian Gaine.
If Gordon's camp can find a willing trade partner, the question becomes how much the Chargers will require to consummate a deal. The MMQB's Albert Breer reported that the team declined an offer of Jordan Howard and a swap of mid-round draft picks from the Philadelphia Eagles. Los Angeles could lower its compensation requirements as the season progresses, especially if Ekeler and Jackson maintain their play from Week 1.
Gordon's contract demands would also factor into any trade discussion. During the past offseason, he sought a multiyear contract worth an average value of roughly $13 million. The Chargers declined to meet that number before breaking off negotiations.
A team interested in acquiring Gordon would presumably need to come closer to that figure in order to convince him to report, a decision that would break from precedent. Currently, only four running backs average $13 million or more on their contracts. All four have earned first-team All-Pro honors at least once over the previous three seasons. Gordon has never earned first- or second-team All-Pro honors during his career.
Even so, some NFL general manager might feel compelled to make a move for Gordon, and perhaps Klutch Sports Group will play a role in moving the running back out of Los Angeles. But at least until more dominos fall on either front, Gordon's holdout appears likely to continue unabated.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH