The Chargers will open the season without Russell Okung and with Melvin Gordon possibly on another team.
The club has given Gordon’s representatives permission to seek a trade as his holdout stretches into its sixth week.
The running back is scheduled to make $5.6 million in the final year of his rookie contract. He is seeking an extension that would pay him closer to what the NFL’s top backs are being paid — upward of $13 million per year.
The Chargers have been offering something in the $10-million range and neither side has shown much willingness to budge.
Okung will miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season after the Chargers left him on the non-football illness list Saturday while trimming their roster to the league-mandated 53 players.
The left tackle has been sidelined since early June, when he suffered a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots. His treatment includes blood thinners, which makes playing football an impossibility.
He will need medical clearance before he’s permitted to return. Okung was just re-evaluated but not cleared.
Any player who begins the season on the non-football illness list cannot return before Week 7.
The Chargers prepped all preseason to go into their Sept. 8 opener against Indianapolis with Trent Scott at left tackle.
Undrafted out of Grambling State last year, Scott started one game — at right tackle — in 2018. He began his rookie season on the practice squad.
Gordon’s situation has hung over the franchise for several weeks, going back to mid-July when his agent informed the team that Gordon would not report and instead would demand a trade if an extension failed to materialize.
Throughout training camp, general manager Tom Telesco repeatedly dismissed the idea of dealing Gordon, noting the team is better with its top running back in place.
But during the telecast of the Chargers’ final preseason game Thursday, Telesco admitted he was “disappointed” that he has been unable to find a solution to the standoff.
He again referenced how much Gordon means to the team and the organization in general but then added, “I’m confident in the players that we have on the field right now will play well.”
Those players include running backs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Ekeler is entering his third season and has proven to be a capable ball carrier. Jackson, in his second year, was a contributor at the end of last season.
The Chargers’ running back group also includes Troymaine Pope, who made the initial 53-man roster over returnee Detrez Newsome.
In exploring a deal, Gordon’s representatives can determine where other teams place his trade value and what they’d be willing to pay him. An extension could be part of any trade.
Houston lost starting running back Lamar Miller last week to a season-ending knee injury. On Saturday, the Texans picked up Carlos Hyde from Kansas City. But they also dealt several assets in a trade with Miami. Further complicating a potential Gordon deal, the Chargers and Texans are scheduled to play during Week 3.
Perhaps complicating a potential Gordon deal, the Chargers and Texans are scheduled to play during Week 3.
The Chargers drafted Gordon, 26, in the first round — No. 15 overall — in 2015. He had a career-high 1,105 yards on the ground in 2017 and has scored 38 touchdowns over the last three seasons.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection , he missed four games last season because of injury and finished with 885 yards rushing and 490 yards receiving.
Not having Gordon comes at a time when the Chargers also are being forced to rework their offensive line in Okung’s absence.
After veterans Mike Pouncey at center and Michael Schofield at right guard, they have youth in tackles Scott and Sam Tevi and guards Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp. Tevi and Feeney are going into to their second full seasons as starters.
The Chargers could look to add some offensive line help in the coming days as rosters are set league-wide for Week 1.
When training camp opened, defensive back Jaylen Watkins was expected to compete for the starting job at free safety. On Saturday, the Chargers released him.
Watkins, who missed last season because of a knee injury, was unable to unseat Rayshawn Jenkins. The Chargers spent a second-round pick in April on free safety Nasir Adderley.
The team will need safety help and could attempt to re-sign Watkins once Derwin James is placed on the injured reserve list. James is expected to miss three or four months because of a stress fracture in his foot.
The Chargers also released quarterback Cardale Jones, giving the No. 3 job to rookie Easton Stick, a fifth-round pick.
In cutting Tyler Newsome, they opted to go with Ty Long as their new punter/holder.
Undrafted rookie safety Roderic Teamer made the initial 53-man roster when UCLA’s Adarius Pickett was let go.
Among the other players released were defensive linemen T.Y. McGill, Patrick Afriyie and Anthony Lanier; wide receivers Artavis Scott and Andre Patton; cornerback Jeff Richards; offensive lineman Spencer Drango; and linebacker Kyle Wilson.
Teams can begin filling out their 10-man practice squads at 10 a.m. Sunday.