NFL Draft Rumors: Justin Herbert’s Contract, a Possible Trade, Austin Ekeler, and More

With a new contract for the QB Justin Herbert looming, there are rumors that the Los Angeles Chargers could be looking to trade down in the 2023 NFL Draft.

There’s a growing sense that the No. 21 slot won’t be occupied by the Los Angeles Chargers on Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

NFL Draft Rumors: Will the Chargers Possibly Trade Down?

The Chargers are a team in need of five glaring positions once April 27 rolls around: Wide receiver, offensive tackle, running back, cornerback, and edge rusher. But there’s another need — one that involves franchise quarterback Justin Herbert and giving him a financial elevation from his current four-year, $26.5 million deal that has two years left.

And that’s where moving down and going cheaper comes into play, with Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network thinking the Chargers could look into moving out of the 21st selection during a Thursday conference call with reporters.

“Yeah, I think that’s a real possibility, and I think as you’re getting ready to pay Justin, having more cheap starters is going to be the way to go,” Jeremiah said.

One model that could benefit Los Angeles in this scenario is one that involved a division rival.

“I think look no further than the Chiefs and what they were able to do. The Tyreek [Hill] trade and playing so many rookies and getting so many cheap starters through the draft,” Jeremiah said. “I think trading down makes a lot of sense. If they were to trade down, now you start looking at edge rushers and receivers. I think there’s value down there at the bottom of the first round.”

MORE: FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator (With Trades)

In the edge rush department, towering and versatile prospects like Clemson’s Myles Murphy, or pass-rush specialists like Will McDonald IV of Iowa State and Felix Anudike-Uzomah of Kansas State are names who are projected to become available late into Day 1 — perhaps even early on Day 2.

Jeremiah adds, “Maybe BJ Ojulari would be one you could consider” if the Chargers take an interest in the LSU standout.

“I think there’s a good group of edge rushers you could be picking from. Even if you traded to the top of the second round, if you were to trade all the way out, I think there’s some guys that would fit,” Jeremiah said.

As for wideouts, speed is fitting for a team in a land of fast, exotic cars. Jeremiah believes the Chargers should pivot outside of height and focus more on who can move. He mentioned two names worth monitoring.

“When you are looking at Jalin Hyatt from Tennessee and Zay Flowers [Boston College], those would be the two guys that would be interesting fits if they were to trade back,” Jeremiah explained.

A Justin Herbert Contract Extension Looms

Again, the potential trade-down tactic could benefit Herbert and the Bolts.

But the thoughts of Herbert’s pending extension gets intensified through this: Fellow 2020 draft class member Jalen Hurts earning his blockbuster deal from the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday that made him the league’s highest-paid player with $255 million over five years.

Now, the market gets reset for quarterbacks everywhere, including Herbert. The now fourth-year QB has been up for an extension since the conclusion of his third league season in January. The Chargers can also pick up Herbert’s fifth-year option for 2024, but that deadline is set four days after the draft on May 2.

Paying Herbert — especially if the Chargers miraculously give him a higher salary than Hurts’ deal — would give L.A. more leverage in finding draft prospects who won’t be considered bank breakers with values outside of first-round range.

Could Austin Ekeler Still Get Moved?

Meanwhile, the Chargers have another elephant in the room to address: Austin Ekeler and his 2023 status, as the versatile running back still seeks a trade.

Now there’s this thought ahead of the draft presented by Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports on Thursday — the Chargers maintain their original draft order and keep pick 21, but swoop up the Eagles’ No. 30 selection and send the RB with 38 combined touchdowns the last two seasons to the NFC champs.

MORE: List of Los Angeles Chargers 2023 NFL Draft Picks

From there, the Chargers potentially nab some protection help for Herbert at 30, such as behemoth right tackle Darnell Wright of Tennessee, who ranks as PFN’s No. 4 rated offensive tackle prospect in this class.

For the Eagles, if they pull off this deal, they’ll be getting a 27-year-old coming off career-best marks in rushing yards (915), rushing touchdowns (13), receptions (107), and yards from scrimmage (1,637). On the Chargers’ end, they’ll draft a tackle who’ll enter a room that saw Trey Pipkins battle ankle and knee injuries and had Foster Sarell as the lone backup option.

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