The Los Angeles Chargers and restricted free-agent running back Austin Ekeler have agreed to a multiyear extension, the team announced Friday.
A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that it is a four-year, $24.5 million deal that includes $15 million guaranteed. The source said Ekeler, 24, could make up to $26 million over the course of the deal through incentives.
He was slated to become a restricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 18. When he signs his new deal, he'll be scheduled to become a free agent after the 2023 season.
BOLT NATION WHERE YOU AT?!?! 🎸🎸🎸— Austin Ekeler (@AustinEkeler) March 6, 2020
HIT IT 🎸 pic.twitter.com/FDoGMJ0aHK— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) March 6, 2020
Cameron Weiss of Dynamic Sports Group and Chargers vice president Ed McGuire have been negotiating the deal since early January.
"It feels a little overwhelming, but it's a relief,'' Ekeler said during a conference call Friday. "We were going back and forth for a month. We were pretty far apart at first, but once we kept getting closer it started to become a real possibility.''
Despite sharing time in the Chargers' backfield with Melvin Gordon, Ekeler finished tops in the NFL among running backs with eight receiving touchdowns and ranked second with 92 catches last season.
Gordon, who finished with 612 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns in 12 games, is expected to test the free-agent market, a source told ESPN's Josina Anderson on Thursday.
If Gordon leaves, Ekeler would step into a bigger role as the Chargers prepare to move into a new stadium at Hollywood Park.
"I can see myself being more of a leader vocally,'' Ekeler said. "My role will be bigger than last year with more opportunities.''
Initially a special-teams standout, Ekeler developed into a proven playmaker for the Chargers in the passing game and running game. His 993 receiving yards were the second most by a running back in a single season in team history, as was his reception total.
Per ESPN Stats & Information research, Ekeler was second in the NFL last season in receiving yards after the catch (10.3). His 2,508 scrimmage yards over the past two seasons rank 18th in the NFL during that time period.
Ekeler also rushed for a career-high 557 yards in 2019, handling the bulk of the workload while Gordon missed training camp and the first four regular-season games due to a contract impasse.
General manager Tom Telesco said during the NFL scouting combine that he believes Ekeler can be the Chargers' lead guy, but that it would be ideal to pair him with another back. Justin Jackson has shown some flashes but has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons.
"He can handle the touches. Would you want to have him carry the ball 30, 35 times a game, which hardly anybody does anymore? I think we'd want to pair him with anybody," Telesco said of Ekeler. "He can do so much with the football with the amount of touches he gets. It doesn't just have to be as a running back. We can put him in the slot. We can put him out wide. He's a pretty dangerous player for us and a big part of our offense. He's going to play a lot."
Ekeler had a career-high 101 yards rushing and 112 yards receiving -- on just 12 total touches -- during a 45-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, becoming the only Chargers player to surpass the century mark in both categories in a single game since Lionel James did it in 1985.
Ekeler, who signed with the Chargers in 2017 as an undrafted rookie out of Division II Western State University (Colorado), has shown durability, playing in all but two games over his three NFL seasons.
ESPN's Eric D. Williams and The Associated Press contributed to this report.