Los Angeles Chargers Offseason Previewby Mason Thompson February 25, 2021 0 comments
The Los Angeles Chargers entered the 2020 season looking for a new quarterback after Philip Rivers went to the Indianapolis Colts. The Chargers found their new franchise signal-caller by selecting Justin Herbert last year. Herbert went on to win Rookie of the Year. He completed over 66 percent of his passes for over 4,300 yards and 31 touchdowns. With the quarterback position now figured out, Los Angeles is looking to build up the roster around their young superstar.
Pending Free Agents
The Chargers enter free agency with 28 free agents and the ninth-most cap space at almost $24 million. There are plenty of players the Chargers will need to make decisions on that could determine their plans during the draft.
Hunter Henry, Tight End
Henry is the biggest free agent Los Angeles has. The Chargers placed the franchise tag on Henry last season and now have to make a long-term decision on their star tight end. He had the best season of his career in 2020, where he finished second on the team in targets and catches and third in yards and touchdowns. His injuries are still a concern, but the connection between Herbert and Henry is very important. Henry’s contract could range from 11-13 million per season on a per-year basis, which would make him the third-highest tight end in the league.
Melvin Ingram, Edge Rusher
Ingram has been a steady starter on the Chargers since he was their first-round choice in 2012. Over the last two years, he has missed 12 games due to injuries. In seven games this year, Ingram didn’t record a sack. Tom Telesco could opt to go younger at the position with Ingram’s age and health concerns coming into question.
Michael Davis, Cornerback
The Chargers found a steal in Davis. He finished first on the team and interceptions and pass deflections and fifth in tackles. He appears to be the Chargers’ second cornerback on the outside opposite of Casey Heyward.
Rayshawn Jenkins, Safety
Jenkins finished second on the team in tackles and interceptions. He has spent time at both safety spots and dime linebacker. With Derwin James coming back healthy for 2021, Telesco and his staff would be wise to extend Jenkins and have him form a tandem with James on the back-end.
Denzel Perryman and Nick Vigil, Linebackers
The Chargers have a lot of depth in their linebacking core. Both Perryman and Vigil are free agents after having strong years in Los Angeles. The two combined for 98 tackles, three sacks, and two pass deflections. Perryman is the more obvious choice to stay as he could help with the development of Kenneth Murray.
Sam Tevi, Dan Feeney, Forrest Lamp, Offensive Line
The trio of these linemen is going to be interesting to see who the Chargers elect to keep. Tevi started some games at left tackle last year but should only be provided on for depth instead of a starting piece. Both Feeney and Lamp have struggled on the interior, but Los Angeles is confident in Feeney as a starter. Lamp is a swing guard that could potentially start on another team given the right opportunity.
Potential Cap Casualties
Even with the Chargers having a lot of cap space, they could still use more and get more cap in a variety of ways. Here are four players that the Chargers could release to get over $40 million back in cap space.
Casey Hayward, CB ($9.75M Saved)
After being one of the best defenders for many seasons for the Chargers, Hayward took a step back last year. He wasn’t one of the best cornerbacks in the league anymore. Hayward allowed over 600 yards last year, an average of almost 17 yards per reception. He has dealt with some injuries, so that may be the reason his play has took a dive recently. If he’s released, the Chargers would likely use an early selection on a cornerback.
Trai Turner, OG ($11.5M Saved)
After being acquired in a trade with Russell Okung, Turner has struggled since being in Los Angeles. After making five pro bowls in Carolina, Turner has not lived up to expectations for the Chargers. He missed seven games this season and wasn’t the Carolina version of himself while suited up for the Chargers. Turner could be on his way out, leaving the Chargers with more holes along the offensive line.
Mike Williams, WR ($15.68M Saved)
Williams will be playing on his fifth-year option next season. He has shown flashes but hasn’t reached his full potential yet, causing the Chargers to look in another direction. Telesco is a smart general manager who will work his magic. He can find a viable second option during the offseason to play alongside Keenan Allen if Williams doesn’t return. The Chargers could decide to bring Williams back on his current price because of their cap situation.
Chris Harris, CB ($7.5M Saved)
Harris dealt with injuries during his first year for the Chargers. He allowed over a 70 percent completion percentage this year. With Brandon Staley now the head coach, Harris could be brought back as part of a bounce-back season for the defense. Without Harris and or Hayward, the Chargers will have almost no depth at their cornerback group.
Open Market Free Agents
The Chargers are in a difficult place for their open market free agents. They could go with some veteran options or some younger options. The offensive line should be a main focal point, along with some pass-rushing options and receivers. The running back position could also be addressed by a second-level option at the position.
Jeremiah Attaochu, EDGE, Denver Broncos
Why not? Attaochu was once a Charger, including a massive 2015 campaign where he had 55 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and 17 quarterback hits. He never built off of that success in Los Angeles and dealt with some injuries during his last few seasons playing the Chargers. After two seasons with the Jets and Broncos, Attaochu is once again looking for a new home. Whether it be a backup or potential starter, he would be a cheap option and provide a feel-good story for the Chargers.
Any Offensive Lineman
The Chargers have a revolving door at each spot on the offensive line, besides right tackle. The other four spots are a toss-up, especially with the recent news that Mike Pouncey is retiring, along with the fact that Turner may be a cap casualty. Look for Los Angeles to make a run at Corey Linsley and Kelvin Beachum, one as a top-flight center and the other as a cheap starting-caliber left tackle.
Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers
Austin Ekeler is one of the most interesting running backs in the league. He was the second-option to Melvin Gordon for a few years before the Chargers wanted him to take part as the lead-back. Unfortunately, injuries struck Ekeler, and that, paired with the offensive line woes, is causing Los Angeles to look at a couple of free-agent options at the position. Williams most likely won’t return to Green Bay, and the Chargers would be wise to make a run at him in free agency.
Previewing the Draft
Los Angeles needs to surround their new franchise signal-caller. That may be on the offensive line, weapons around him, or on the defensive side of the ball, but Telesco needs to make this draft worthwhile.
Round 1, Pick 13: Offensive Tackle
Protect your franchise quarterback. This is the case for both the Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason. Get a competent group of five in front of your future. In this case, Los Angeles is in a prime position to get the second or third best tackle in a loaded tackle class. Look for the Chargers to select one of Rashawn Slater, Christian Darrisaw, or Samuel Cosmi with this selection.
Round 2, Pick 47: Cornerback
The Chargers are relying on both Hayward and Harris as aging veterans to man two of their three starting spots. Both are coming off injury-plagued seasons and had difficult stretches of play last season. Davis is a solid number two option, but Los Angeles needs to build for the future and find a starting number one cornerback of the future. Players like Asante Samuel Jr, Kelvin Joseph, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Eric Stokes, and Tyson Campbell could all be options with this selection.
Round 3, Pick 77: Interior Offensive Line
Both guard spots, as well as the center spot, could be up for grabs this upcoming season. The Chargers need to find the best five on the roster, which could involve multiple rookies. Players such as Deonte Brown, Aaron Banks, David Moore, and Quinn Meinerz would all be great selections with this pick.
Round 3, Pick 97: Edge Rusher
Wide receiver could also make a case here in this loaded class. There are plenty of intriguing depth options or potential starters late on day two of the draft. Expect Los Angeles to select at least one edge rusher within the first three rounds to make up for their lack of depth at the position.
Early 2021 Expectations
In an ever-changing AFC West, the Chargers are poised for a potential playoff run with Herbert in his second year. With James, Hayward, and Harris coming back from injury, the Chargers now have a reloaded secondary. Their secondary was one of the best in the league when they last made the playoffs in 2018. Los Angeles should be highly competitive for one of the final wild card spots in the AFC. Expect the Chargers to vastly improve their offensive line and add a weapon or two around Herbert on offense. If they do that, Los Angeles is poised for a playoff run in 2021.