The Los Angeles Chargers will be going into arguably one of the most important off-season in a long time. Not only will they have to make sure they address key team needs but also, find a way to win the city of Los Angeles over and quench their insatiable thirst for winning. Chargers will have to win their way into the hearts of the fans. A good start will be to address four key things to help them ascend out of the cellar of a competitive AFC west.
Create more cap space
According to Spotrac, they have about $6.7 million in cap space after placing the franchise tag on LB Melvin Ingram on Monday. The Chargers will have to shed some contracts in order to make a run at some players that can have a positive impact on the team. Names that come to mind are WR Stevie Johnson, LT King Dunlap, CB Brandon Flowers and to a lesser extent guard Orlando Franklin. One thing that all these players have in common are they missed significant amount of time over the course of their tenure with the Chargers.
Johnson has missed total of 22 games for the Bolts. He suffered a torn meniscus during training camp in 2016, that ended his season. In 2015, Johnson only played 10 games due to a lingering groin injury. If the Chargers cut Johnson they will save roughly $3.5 million, which should be a no-brainer considering how little the Chargers have in cap space and a younger replacement in Tyrell Williams.
Dunlap is an important piece to the team when he is on the field but the key word there is “when”. Dunlap has also been plagued by injuries, he has missed 13 games in the last two seasons. Unlike, Johnson there is no real replacement for Dunlap but he is on the wrong side of 30 and by cutting him Chargers will save another $4.9 million. I think it will be too much to resist for general manager Tom Telesco.
Flowers was a very productive player his first year with the Chargers after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs. But Flowers production has trended down every year after. He missed 17 games in three seasons with injuries and clearly looks like a former shell of his old self. Although, they are thin at the position in terms of reliable talent. Chargers will save nearly $7 million if they cut Flowers. I think Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn will have to roll dice on this one and hope his younger corners can step up in the nickel corner spot.
Lastly, Franklin is an interesting player. He missed six games in his first year with the Bolts but was able finish all 16 games in 2016. Having said that, he has not been spectacular by any measure. In fact according Pro Football Focus, Franklin was rated as 47.5 overall and ranked 66th at his position. The Chargers can save about $2.8 million if he is cut or cut him sometime during training camp. According to Spotrac, if they cut him after June 1, the Chargers will only be on the hook for Franklin’s signing bonus which is $1.6 million. It will save the team nearly $6 million. In Franklin’s case it is his job to lose.
If all the cuts are made the Chargers can potentially save $18.2 million and could have over $20 million in cap space going into free-agency.
Players that need to take a pay-cut
The first name comes to mind is DT Corey Liuget. In 2015, he signed a massive five-year $51.25 million contract. This is starting to look like the situation the Chargers had encountered with Donald Butler which they cut in 2015 for not living up to his lucrative deal. Having said that, Pro Football Focus has Liuget rated at 49.3 and ranked 65 at his position. He is currently paid as a top 10 player at DT. So he is going to need to take a massive pay-cut to justify staying on the team. According to Spotrac, the 65th highest-paid player at defensive tackle is Detroit Lions DT Anthony Zettel and he is only making about $2.4 million, so that should give you an idea of what to expect. Although, I don’t think he will take that severe of a hit but it is an illustration of how his play on the field should reflect his salary.
Areas to address in free agency
The Chargers have been decimated by injury for the better part of three seasons. It is up to the Chargers to act accordingly and surround themselves with as many high quality players as they can. They should add depth to the offensive line, defensive line and the secondary.
A good candidate to bring in is former Tennessee Titans guard Chance Warmack. He is a quick and athletic guard, who is well suited for teams that like to run the ball. Warmack did get a 48.2 grade by PFF but that was mostly due to injury and he did not play much in 2016. Warmack will probably look for a one-year “prove it” deal. This is right up Telesco’s alley he has hit on a lot of low risk high upside players. Warmack will be a good candidate to either add depth or a cheaper option to replace a starter on the offensive line.
Next, with the signing of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, he has switched the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3. To accommodate to the change the Chargers should look to add depth along the defensive line.
Other than offensive line and safety the Chargers do not have many glaring needs. So the team should just look to add depth at key positions.
Adding play makers in the 2017 NFL Draft
Draft needs: S, OL, QB*, DL*, WR*
The 2017 NFL Draft is loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball. It has even been regarded by many that it is one of the best defensive draft classes in a long time.
The Chargers have the seventh overall pick in the draft. Many mock drafts have them selecting Ohio State’s star safety Malik Hooker. He would be an excellent candidate to add another player maker in the back end of the secondary. But I think if available the Chargers should select LSU standout Jamal Adams. He is a tone setter on defense. He hits like a truck and can also cover very well. He would seem to fit the mold of what Bradley is looking for. Bradley was a former Seattle Seahawks’ assistant. If you notice teams like the Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons they have something in common. That is they have a hard hitting safety that can cover TE’s. Pete Carroll has Kam Chancellor and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has Keanu Neal. So I think Bradley will follow the same mold as his collaegues and get himself a similar safety, which is Adams.
With the other picks I think the Chargers should take the best player available and stockpile talent. This draft is not strong at offensive line should address best player available at every round. Chargers QB Philip Rivers is in the latter part of his career so the team should start to look for his successor in either this draft or the next so there is a smooth transition. In the later rounds, Chargers can look at players like Miami QB Brad Kaaya and Cal’s QB Davis Webb they are both talented but could use a few seasons to sit behind a proven veteran.
DL and WR should be the last thing Chargers should address. The team already has plenty of talent at those positions and should be selected after the other needs are filled and should be considered for mostly to add depth.
If the Chargers can have a slam dunk free agency, draft and manage to stay healthy, they have a great chance at reasserting themselves back into playoff contention.
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