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Austin Ekeler To The Commanders

Austin Ekeler has signed with the Washington Commanders. What happens now to his dynasty value since he's no longer a workhorse running back?

NFL free agency has begun, and it has started with an absolute frenzy. The running back position was the most volatile position at the start of the free agency signing period. Austin Ekeler signed a two-year contract with the Washington Commanders. The deal is worth up to $11.43 million, including a $3 million signing bonus. Ekeler has left the Los Angeles Chargers to prove he is still a valuable running back in the NFL.

From 2019 to 2023

(Photo Courtesy of Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire)

Ekeler had an off year in 2023, partly due to missing three games with an ankle injury. Beginning in 2019, He finished as a top-five fantasy running back for three of the following four seasons. In 2022, he was RB1 overall. Unfortunately, in 2023, he finished as RB25 and had 13.3 FPPG. Last year, he only had six total touchdowns.

The 2024 Outlook

Going into the 2024 season, Ekeler was an unrestricted free agent who could not agree to a contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. Signing with the Commanders at 28 years old, Ekeler looks to get his career back on track. He is likely no longer a three-down back in the NFL, but that is not what the Commanders need him to be. Ekeler will always be a pass-catching running back and a third-down back while still playing in the NFL.

In signing with Washington, Ekeler will be reuniting with one of his former head coaches, Anthony Lynn. Lynn is now the Commanders’ running backs coach and run game coordinator. Lynn’s familiarity will only help Ekeler transition into the Commanders’ offense.

Ekeler will complement the returning running back, Brian Robinson Jr. Robinson, who will likely be the early-down and short-yardage running back. With Robinson carrying most of the load at the running back position, Ekeler can focus on what he is excellent at, being a change-of-pace pass-catching back.

Another benefit for Ekeler is that he will not have to have as many touches as he has had in past seasons. Since 2019, he has averaged 242 total touches per season. His past workload is one reason many fantasy managers worry about his fantasy outlook in the future.

Future Dynasty Outlook

Looking into the future of Ekeler is trying to evaluate his dynasty fantasy football value in 2024 and beyond. Not only is Ekeler entering a new role that he has never been in before, but he is also one year closer to the running back age cliff that all fantasy managers are afraid of. Not having to carry the offense on his back will be a good thing for Ekeler this season. The Commanders are ushering in a new regime and probably a new rookie quarterback at this year’s NFL draft.

Ekeler will be a safety valve and key option for the Commanders’ quarterback this season. However, there’s no path for him to be a top-12 fantasy RB again. At this point in his career, Ekeler’s ceiling is an RB2/flex option. Rebuilding teams should look to trade away Ekeler to a contending team. While your return won’t be hefty, it will be better to trade him now before he loses all his value.

Ekeler is a hold for contending teams unless they send offers for him. As a team towards the top of your league, it’s better to be out a year too early than a year too late. Unfortunately, that year may have been last offseason.

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