2023 NFL free agency: Questions on Aaron Rodgers, Austin Ekeler

The first two days of NFL free agency are in the books, with the new league year beginning Wednesday. In a market filled with more offensive linemen, defensive tackles and safeties and fewer high-profile skill-position players, trades -- or the possibility of trades -- have been the higher-profile stories. Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Jalen Ramsey and pass-catchers DJ Moore and Darren Waller already have been dealt, while running back Austin Ekeler has joined wideouts DeAndre Hopkins and Courtland Sutton on the trade block.

Oh, and there's that other trade that hasn't happened yet. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' move from the Packers to the Jets is the worst-kept secret in the league, but it seems stuck in neutral. Rodgers said he wouldn't hold the Packers hostage with his decision, which is technically true; ESPN's Dianna Russini reported Tuesday that he sent the Jets a number of players to consider acquiring, which feels a lot like a list of demands. New York added one of those receivers when it signed Allen Lazard, but the Rodgers trade remains on hold.

I have lots of questions about the Rodgers situation and everything else happening over the first few days of free agency. I'll start with the team that might acquire Rodgers, though, because it's in a vulnerable position. (Note: This piece was updated Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. ET).

Jump to a question:
Will Ekeler have a trade market?
Are the Chiefs putting Mahomes at risk?
Should the Eagles have been more aggressive?
What is the Jets' backup plan at QB?
Why are star cornerbacks suddenly cheap?
What are the Patriots thinking at WR?
Are Denver's moves aimed at its QB?
What will the Saints do without DTs?

What will the trade market look like for Austin Ekeler?

Most second contracts for running backs don't work out. One notable exception has been Ekeler, who has vastly outplayed the four-year, $24 million deal he inked with the Chargers in 2020. Since moving into the lead role in 2021, he ranks third among backs in yards from scrimmage and has 38 touchdowns, 12 more than any other player.

Advanced metrics are also fond of Ekeler's work. For a back who was once considered too small to play near the goal line, he has scored 12 touchdowns on 17 carries inside the 3-yard line, generating three conversions more than an average back would have in the same spots, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He has averaged 1.75 yards per route run over that stretch, in line with No. 1 wideouts such as Mike Evans and Diontae Johnson.

At 27, Ekeler is still young enough to be a valuable part of a great offense over the next several seasons. That offense might not be in Los Angeles, as the Chargers reportedly weren't willing to give him what he wanted and have allowed his representation to look for a trade. Everyone would agree he deserves a raise, but the Chargers are heavily invested at wide receiver with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, handed out significant money to center Corey Linsley and are about to give Justin Herbert a massive raise.