San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco is likely busy building a list of potential free-agent targets from around the league, but deciding which of his own players to offer new contracts to will be among the most difficult decisions.
One of those players will be defensive lineman Kendall Reyes.
The Chargers didn’t play great on defense in 2015, to say the least. The team was ranked No. 20 overall. They were atrocious in defending against the run, giving up 125 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. If teams wanted to pound the ball at San Diego on the ground, they were able to do so at will.
As a result, Telesco could be looking for a complete overhaul on the defensive side of the ball. However, he did show confidence in the coaching staff despite a poor 4-12 season. Head coach Mike McCoy and defensive coordinator John Pagano were both retained.
McCoy and the rest of the staff will be tasked with making a quick turnaround in 2016.
Telesco has some rebuilding to do, but there is plenty of talent to build around. Reyes has been a consistent member of the defense since being drafted.
In his four years with the team, the former second-round draft pick has 13.5 career sacks while never missing a single game. Football Outsiders shows that he was on the field for 65.5 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, far more than any other defensive lineman on the team. He knows Pagano’s system and, at just 26 years of age, should have plenty of football still in front of him.
These are all reasons for the Chargers to bring Reyes back, but it has to work financially too.
Last season, Reyes had a guaranteed contract of about $952,000 with a cap number of $1.3 million. There were 17 players on the team with higher cap numbers, so he shouldn’t command a huge raise.
Of course, Reyes will probably want to test the open market and gauge interest from around the league.
For the Chargers to offer him a new contract to stay, it will probably hinge on whether they feel he can help the defense approve in defending the run, or if they can find a better option on the open market. Players such as Malik Jackson and Mike DeVito could both be viable—yet much more expensive—options. Those who don’t want to see Reyes back could point to the fact that he was the defensive lineman who was on the field the most as the team was gashed by the run.
This is why the Chargers really need a good D-Line.#80 Corey Liuget#120 Kendall Reyes#122 Ricardo Mathews https://t.co/21IsZ67pWZ
— ⚡️Chargers Legion⚡️ (@ChargersLegion) January 20, 2016
Another troubling trend with Reyes is the fact that his sacks have gone down considerably. He had 10.5 sacks in his first two seasons, and only three in his last two seasons.
For Telesco, he’ll have to weigh going for a big fish like Jackson against the ability to re-sign both of his free-agent tight ends, Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green. That is just an example of one of the decisions that could cross his desk.
Unlike players like Jackson and DeVito, Reyes has played under Pagano for his entire career. Though those players could come in and learn the scheme, Reyes already knows it.
The defense will need to be improved, there is no doubt about that. Telesco needs to find a solid cover corner, a hard-hitting safety and a defensive end that can put more pressure on the quarterback. Yet, it seems that he could address these needs in the NFL draft.
Of course, should the team get the chance to select Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa in the draft, Reyes would become expendable.
Whether Reyes stays in San Diego or not will probably be a toss up. Would it be a terrible move to bring him back? No. But at the same time, the team needs a guy who can get to the quarterback and Reyes doesn’t appear to be that guy anymore. Perhaps the team re-signs him and finds more depth, making Reyes a backup? Either way, Telesco can probably find a better option in the draft.
Final Decision: Move on