The Los Angeles Chargers mostly sat idle during the first day of legal tampering in the NFL’s Free Agency period. Free Agents can’t officially sign until March 18th but the league opens the negotiation window a few days before, which was March 16.
This is why some teams announce deals this early in the process, per usual. Regardless Los Angeles did not miss out all the marque free agents by not making a big move on Day One.
With almost $47 million in cap space, not including what they will spend on draft picks, the Chargers can still make their big splash in free agency before they move into the new arena.
Los Angeles already made a big move by trading Russell Okung for Trai Turner. Turner is a Pro Bowl guard who should help them stabilize a unit that is desperate for that. The Chargers also franchise tagged Hunter Henry.
Additionally, they said goodbye to Philip Rivers after the two were together for nearly two decades. Running back Melvin Gordon is also unlikely to return to the team after they never met his contract demands, despite his hold out.
Safety Adrian Phillips is another starter who might get more money elsewhere as the Chargers drafted safeties the past few years. Starting guard Michael Schofield could walk too as it appears the Chargers traded for his replacement.
Jatavis Brown, Travis Benjamin and Jaylen Watkins are among other Chargers rotational players set to hit the open market.
Thus, the Chargers should spread that money around as well as make another marquee addition or two. They need to continue building their roster as well as make a splash that will help them fill out that new stadium.
Quarterback Jameis Winston
The Chargers are one of a few teams in the Tom Brady sweepstakes which could be why they are not active in other early waves of free agency yet.
Brady makes a lot of sense for the Chargers from a marketing stand point but their offensive line needs to get up to par before they should be considered a contender with the Patriots Legend under center. Not to mention, he could easily spurn the Bolts by returning to the Pats.
Either way, the Chargers would be smart to look into Winston as their next option at QB. Winston became the first quarterback to throw thirty touchdowns and thirty interceptions but he also threw for over 5,000 passing yards. I know that interception number might give Chargers fans unwanted Deja Vu as they just got rid of a QB who turned the ball over too many times in crucial spots.
That said, the Chargers already have a capable game manager on the roster with Tyrod Taylor. Why not let him and Winston duke it out for the starting job?
Best case scenario, the 26-year-old figures it out and becomes the quarterback of now and the future. Worse case, he is a quality backup or the bridge guy until they draft someone new.
L.A. could also look at Teddy Bridgewater or Marcus Mariota as the next best guys with starting experience. They could still tap into the free agency market too. However, Winston offers more upside and probably a better price than everyone else on the market.
Tackle Kelvin Beachum
Usually, starting tackles do not hit free agency. However, Beachum is hitting the market after three years starting for the Jets. He will be 31 next year but that should not be a problem since linemen usually play into their thirties.
Beachum is not the typical size for a left tackle but the Chargers already started a tackle with more athleticism than bulk, previously with Okung. The three games Beachum missed last year were his first since the one game he missed in 2016 which is a welcomed upgrade considering all the lineman that have missed time with the Chargers.
Moreover, Beachum gives the Chargers flexibility. They can hold onto him as depth at right or left tackle should they draft a tackle at the top of the first round because Beachum can play either spot. Otherwise, he’s a nice bridge guy at left tackle if the Chargers take a developmental tackle later too.
As for the rest of the market, the Chargers would have to settle on an aging left tackle Andrew Whitworth or Jason Peters. Or they would have to deal with Cordy Glenn’s injury reputation.
The could also look into true right tackles like Bryan Bulaga, Daryl Williams, Germain Ifedi, Ty Sambrailo or Bulaga is probably the best and biggest name in the group but still not as much experience on the left side as Beachum. Moreover, any one of those guys could actually complement Beachum’s addition as well.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham
The Chargers defense took a step back last year and injuries at linebacker were one of the many reasons why. They let go of legend Thomas Davis even though he wasn’t deserving of all the blame.
Nonetheless, this linebacker class offers a few options for the Chargers need. Sean Lee is not expected to return to the Cowboys but it is unlikely the Chargers sign a linebacker deep in their thirties again.
Bruce Irvin or Mario Addison could help but they project more as stand up rushers. The Chargers need to upgrade their linebacker spot to find someone who can over the pass and takeaway the run.
Cory Littleton is the market’s top guy because he can play versus the run or pass. However, his eight-figure salary won’t be easy for the Chargers to match if they plan on signing a veteran free agent.
Tahir Whitehead could make sense but he was a liability for the Raiders in coverage last year. Alec Ogletree makes sense too except he has battled his own injuries last year. Mark Barron has been inconsistent since leaving the Rams and has his own injury history.
Mychal Kendricks is also a good bargain with his experience in Seattle’s scheme which the Chargers defense is cut from. However, Bradham graded better by PFF than Kendricks last year. The two were teammates on the Super Bowl team but Bradham really got most of the attention as he came out of nowhere.
For the Chargers, Bradham brings experience playing multiple positions as inside and outside backer. His play took a step back last year but what Eagles player didn’t?
At the very least, Bradham brings Super Bowl experience to tutor the Chargers running backs. At best, he is a run stuffer who fills an immediate need with consistency. That’s a gamble the Bolts should take.
Defensive Tackle Jarran Reed
The Chargers let go of Brandon Mebane and they need a run-stuffing nose tackle to replace him. This free agency class is stacked with interior defensive linemen of all shapes and sizes.
Reed makes the most sense for the Chargers because he can play multiple schemes and positions. Last year, he had a down season after missing six games with suspensions. He had 10.5 sacks the season before but only 5 for the other three seasons combined.
The point is, L.A. can’t pay everybody money so gambling on Reed makes sense as a bargain player familiar with the Bolts scheme. They would hope the 27-year-old reverts to last year’s form on a on a one-year prove-it contract.
Other names that make sense include D.J. Reader who registered 2.5 sacks last year after moving to more defensive end duties despite playing a lot of nose. He still has the lower body to be the anchor of L.A.’s run defense.
Vernon Butler also makes sense after his 6 sacks last year with Carolina. He benefited from the team playing more odd fronts as well. Jordan Phillips is off a season where he had over nine sacks with the Bills. He also makes sense if the Chargers want a scheme-versatile big-body. Reed will probably go for cheaper though.
They could also look at guys like A’Shawn Robinson, Michael Pierce or Danny Shelton but neither have the sack or pass rushing numbers as the other guys mentioned.
Dontari Poe, Damon Harrison and Linval Joseph are some other names on the market who could help the Chargers run defense. Joseph probably offers the most in the tank but the Chargers might be better off gambling on a player like Reed.
Running Back Carlos Hyde
If Melvin Gordon is out of the Chargers plans, the should look at signing a running back as free agency continues. Certainly, this is not a priority as free agents are not usually premium additions these days.
Either way, adding a physical runner like Carlos Hyde would help the Chargers who needed that physical bruiser when he was out.
Hyde re-surged last year with 1070 rushing yards and six touchdowns as the surprise starter for the Texans due to injury. He would be a nice compliment to Eckler and can bring some of what the Bolts will miss from Gordon in the red zone.
Alternatively, they could also look at veteran back like Lamar Miller or Dion Lewis but neither were as advertised at their last spots. Matt Breida could make sense too as he is on the right side of 30 but he is coming off a season that could make him pricey. Devonta Freeman could also make sense but he’s had a few consecutive down seasons the team made that Super Bowl.
Ultimately, Hyde is probably the most known commodity at running back on the open market besides Gordon. That’s why Hyde makes sense for the Chargers.
In the end, the Chargers can find plenty of free agents to immediately help their roster when free agency opens and farther down the line.
What free agents do you hope they sign?