Who’s ready for free agency? These are the offensive skill position free agents that I think fit the Chargers’ needs best at the price that will fit with the budget. Look out for my posts on the trench players and defensive skill position free agents later in the week.
Ronnie Brown is a free agent and is likely done. The Chargers need another big runningback because the Chargers’ offense struggles to establish a running game when Ryan Mathews is unable to go. 3rd string runningback may be a position the Chargers look for late in the draft due to cap concerns, but some of these free agents could be available on the cheap end. (I’m talking Ronnie Brown, less than 900K cheap.)
Donald Brown: 5’10″, 206 lbs., 26 YO
Donald Brown is coming off his rookie contract from 2009 with the Colts. He isn’t the fastest back, but he is strong and didn’t miss a game all season. He is a proven workhouse back that can pick up extra yardage and rarely turns the ball over. He can come into the game to spell Mathews for a few plays and be abel to run it up the gut. He can also make some catches out of the backfield.
James Starks: 6’2″, 218 lbs., 27 YO
Starks was a great change of pace back for Eddie Lacy in Green Bay this season. He only carried the ball 89 times, but averaged 5.5 yards per carry and ran for 3 touchdowns. He also ran for 27 1st downs. Starks has the ability to break a big play after contact. He doesn’t offer much in the passing game, but 3 of his 10 catches also went for 1st downs.
Rashard Mendenhall: 5’10″, 225 lbs, 27 YO
Mendenhall had a bad year for the Cardinals, only averaging 3.2 yards per carry, so the 6-year veteran could be looking at a very cheap contract. However, they asked him to carry the ball 217 times. The Chargers would only need him for about 80-100 carries, so he may be much more effective in shorter bursts. He was still able to rush for 8 touchdowns and 43 1st downs, and he obviously still has the power to burst past the line of scrimmage.
Rashad Jennings: 6’1″, 231 lbs., 28 YO
Jennings could be heading back to the Raiders because he played well this year. He played much better than teammate, Darren McFadden, but he still isn’t getting as much buzz. Jennings is the oldest back on the list, but he hasn’t logged a ton of miles. He has rushed the ball less than 400 times in four NFL seasons. Jennings averages 4.5 yards per carry in his career and din’t fumble once las year.
Greg Jones: 6’1″, 251 lbs., 33 YO
Jones is a fullback coming off a 1-year contract with the Texans after 9 years in Jacksonville blocking for Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones doesn’t touch the ball much, if at all, but is still a top-5 blocking fullback in the NFL. Mike McCoy doesn’t utilize fullbacks much, but Jones is so good at creating holes it will be hard to to even look into bringing him in to pave the way for Mathews. He can even catch the ball out the of backfield on occasion. At his age, he will likely look to sign a 1-year deal. Plus, who wouldn’t want to retire in San Diego?
The Chargers need to bring in a deep play threat to pair with Keenan Allen. They could also be looking for a slot receiver to fill Eddie Royals shoes if TT decides he is not worth the $4.5M he is set to make.
Kenny Britt: 6’3″, 225 lbs., 25 YO
Britt is a bit of a prima donna, but man, is he talented. He is a dynamic downfield threat and huge red zone target. Britt is a great compliment to Keenan Allen, who is more of a possession receiver. Just look what he did even with Jake Locker at quarterback this year. Britt has trouble focusing and staying involved in the game, but the possibilities for him in the Chargers’ passing attack could change that. With rumors about Malcom Floyd retiring after a few injury-riddled seasons, Britt could be a medium-risk, high-upside receiver to bring in for Philip Rivers.
Emmanuel Sanders: 5’11″, 180 lbs., 26 YO
Sanders finished out his rookie contract with the Steelers on a relatively average note. The Steelers thought he could replace Mike Wallace, but he failed to make a big enough impact. Sanders can still run a 4.40 40-yard dash, and would be the downfield threat the Chargers need. He had 3 catches over 40 yards this season, but only caught 2 touchdowns. His lack of size makes him less attractive than Britt as a red zone receiver.
Andrew Hawkins: 5’7″, 180 lbs., 27 YO
Everybody remember him? Hawkins and the Bengals burned the Chargers for a 50-yard catch and run that put the nail in our coffin in week 13. Hawkins had a down this this year after suffering an ankle injury and missing 8 games, but was stellar last year. Hawkins is very fast. He runs a sub 4.4 40-yard dash and is a burner down the field and after the catch. Similar to Sanders, he is undersized and would have to rely on a quick burst in the redzone.
Dexter McCluster: 5’8″, 170 lbs., 26 YO
McCluster is a very similar player to Hawkins. He just happens to be a little faster. McCluster has also shown an elite return ability, taking back 2 punts for touchdowns this season. The Chargers could use a punt returner badly. Who else is tired of watching Keenan Allen fair catch? McCluster would fit in nicely as a slot receiver. The Chiefs will likely want to bring McCluster back, but if they decide not to he could be available for at least less than the $4.5M Eddie Royal is set to make.
Danario Alexander: 6’5″, 217 lbs., 25 YO
The Chargers still own Danario Alexander’s rights after they placed him on season-ending IR. We all still have that glimmer in our eye of what he could have been. AJ Smith’s last move that just seemed too good to be true. Aaaaand, it probably is. But, what do we have to lose? No teams were willings to give it a shot went he went down, and probably still won’t. Alexander is a very low-risk, insanely high-reward option at receiver. He could fill the needs of downfield threat and redzone threat just like Kenny Britt, and he already has experience with Philip and the Chargers. I bet TT will a least invite him to training camp. Hopefully he can just stay healthy. He’s only 25 for crying out loud.