Chargers make deal with Gus Edwards as Austin Ekeler and Kenneth Murray Jr. leave

Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards runs win open field.

After remaining quiet for the first 4½ hours of free agency Monday, the Chargers agreed to terms with former Baltimore running back Gus Edwards.

The deal will reunite the veteran with Greg Roman, who is the Chargers’ new offensive coordinator after serving in the same role with the Ravens from 2019-22.

A short time later, the Chargers added a run-blocking tight end in Will Dissly, who was cut by Seattle after six seasons.

Edwards’ addition came just before free agent Austin Ekeler reached a new deal with Washington, ending his seven-year run with the Chargers. In another notable exit, former first-round pick Kenneth Murray Jr. agreed to a two-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, NFL Media reported.

Turning 29 in April, Edwards had a career-high 810 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2023. He has averaged 4.9 yards per attempt on 699 career carries.

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General manager Joe Hortiz, who also came from Baltimore, and coach Jim Harbaugh both have spoken of a desire to build a stronger, more forceful running game in 2024.

The Chargers hired the pair in January to replace Tom Telesco and Brandon Staley. The first free-agent move of the Hortiz/Harbaugh era did, in fact, address the ground attack.

Edwards is listed at 238 pounds and is known as “Gus Bus” or “Gus the Bus” in part because of his downhill running style. Dissly is valued as a blocker, with single-season career-highs of 34 receptions and 349 yards, both set in 2022.

In leaving Baltimore, Edwards will go from being coached by John Harbaugh to being coached by John’s younger brother.

As with all free-agent agreements league-wide, nothing can be official until after the new league year begins at 1 p.m. PT Wednesday.

Along with Ekeler, the Chargers’ No. 2 running back from last season, Joshua Kelley, also is a free agent.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates a touchdown against Tennessee with an air guitar move.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates a touchdown against Tennessee with his signature air guitar move. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Isaiah Spiller, a fourth-round pick in 2022, is the only other back on the team’s active roster. Elijah Dotson and Jaret Patterson signed futures deals in January.

The Chargers could look to add another running back in the draft next month. Blake Corum, who played for Harbaugh at Michigan, has been the subject of early speculation.

Ekeler, who also turns 29 this offseason, had a difficult year in 2023 while dealing with a high-ankle sprain suffered in the Chargers’ opener.

He never looked quite comfortable in the system of former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, finishing with 628 rushing yards and another 436 though the air.

Of note, Edwards is nowhere near the receiving threat that Ekeler is. He had a career-high of only 12 catches last season. Edwards never has caught a touchdown pass.

Scoring was Ekeler’s signature for a stretch. He led the NFL with 38 total touchdowns in 2021-22.

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Ekeler originally signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Western State in Colorado in 2017.

During his rookie training camp, he gained attention first on special teams and eventually earned a roster spot based on his performance in the Chargers’ preseason finale that year.

Ekeler backed up Melvin Gordon his first two seasons and proved himself capable of starting when Gordon held out in a contract dispute to start 2019.

The Chargers then allowed Gordon to depart in free agency and turned the starting job over to Ekeler. He led the Chargers in rushing in each of the last four seasons and become a fan favorite who celebrated his touchdowns by strumming an imaginary guitar.

Ekeler also has established himself as the one of the NFL’s most popular players among fantasy football owners because of his on-field production.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.