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Melvin Gordon: You can’t just replace a great back

Chargers owner Dean Spanos says a deal with Philip Rivers will get done, but Los Angeles needs to be ready for the moment the veteran retires in order to keep contending.

Melvin Gordon isn’t in the same position that Le’Veon Bell was. Gordon is under contract. Bell wasn’t, refusing to sign the franchise tag.

So while Bell could afford to sit out all season, Gordon can’t. He has to show up by the Tuesday after Week 10 to get credit for the year.

Bell likely didn’t get as much as he hoped he would in signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets this offseason, though it ranks him second in average annual salary behind Todd Gurley. Still, running backs as a group want more, wondering aloud why they have been devalued.

The problem for running backs is most are replaceable.

In Bell’s absence, James Conner had 1,470 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns and the Steelers went 8-4-1 in the 13 games he played. C.J. Anderson arrived in Los Angeles off his couch and had 316 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns for the Rams in the two games Gurley missed last season, with the Rams winning both.

The Chargers even won the four games Gordon missed last season.

Gordon, though, pointed to Ezekiel Elliott’s absence in 2017 for the Cowboys. Dallas went 3-3 without their star running back and missed the playoffs that season. The Cowboys are 28-12 in the regular season with Elliott, who also seeks a new deal.

“Clearly, you seen what happened when Zeke was out. It was a completely different team,” Gordon said Saturday at SportsCon 2019 in Dallas. “You can replace average backs. Yeah, just plug them in. But a great back? You can’t just replace a great back. People think you can do that. You can’t. It will be a difference. It will be a difference, man. We do so much for people to even try to devalue us. We block. We’ve got to run the ball. We’ve got to pick up protections. We have to catch the ball. We have to do what receivers do. We have to do our thing. We have so much that goes through us.

“I tell people the hardest position outside of quarterback. . . .That’s the only position [that’s harder] because you have to know so much. Outside of that, running back is the next hardest position on the field, and we should get paid as such.”

Gordon’s representation informed the Chargers the running back won’t show up to training camp without a new deal, and he said Saturday he’s “prepared to do what I need to do.”

Now, it’s up to the Chargers to decide how much they value Gordon and at what price.