Commanders agree on a 2-year deal with running back Austin Ekeler, AP source says

WASHINGTON (AP) — Austin Ekeler is going coast to coast to join the Washington Commanders.

Ekeler agreed to terms with Washington on a two-year deal worth up to $11.43 million, according to a person familiar with the deal. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the contract cannot be made official until the new league year opens Wednesday.

The soon-to-be 29-year-old leaves the Los Angeles Chargers after seven seasons in which he scored 69 touchdowns since making his professional debut in 2017.

Ekeler led the NFL in combined rushing and receiving touchdowns in 2021 and '22 before dropping to six last season.

Bringing him in gives the retooling Commanders a one-two backfield punch of Ekeler and Brian Robinson Jr.

Ekeler wasn't the only deal new general manager Adam Peters got done after the NFL’s negotiating period for free agents began at noon EDT. Armed with the most cap space in the league, he wasted little time spending it on three-year contracts for linebacker Frankie Luvu, defensive end Dorance Armstrong and center Tyler Biadasz. Peters then added kicker Brandon McManus.

Luvu got $36 million, according to his agency, Team IFA. Two people familiar with the deals told the AP that Armstrong's contract is worth up to $45 million and Biadasz $30 million. McManus got one year at $3.6 million.

Armstrong and Biadasz are players new coach Dan Quinn knows well from his time with the rival Dallas Cowboys. Luvu is a new face at perhaps the Commanders' biggest area of need on defense.

Luvu, 27, led the Carolina Panthers and ranked 22nd among all players in tackles last season with 125. The American Samoa native also had 5 1/2 sacks and gives Washington's defense under Quinn and new coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. some experience at a position that was devalued under former coach Ron Rivera, interestingly a former linebacker.

Biadasz was the Cowboys’ starting center during Quinn's entire three-year tenure as defensive coordinator, when he was working on the other side of the trenches.

Armstrong had been a reserve with Dallas since 2018, appearing in 47 games and starting Dallas while Quinn was running the defense.

Signing Biadasz is the latest step in overhauling the offensive line, which allowed quarterback Sam Howell to be sacked an NFL-high 65 times last season. The Commanders released starting left tackle Charles Leno and informed center Nick Gates he was being released.

Armstrong, who turns 27 before next season, joins a front four that already includes stalwart defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. He has 23 1/2 sacks in his pro career, including 7 1/2 last season.

Following the previous regime sending Chase Young to San Francisco and Montez Sweat to Chicago prior to the trade deadline, Armstrong helps the Commanders fill the edge rushing void that was all too apparent after those moves. They had just 14 sacks in nine games following those trades, and Sweat became the first player to lead two different teams in sacks in the same season.

Adding players familiar to coaches on staff is an early theme of the offseason. Washington last week agreed to sign veteran tight end Zach Ertz, who played for offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury when he coached the Arizona Cardinals.


AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.