Remaining free agents the Chargers should look at
By Matt Pagels
It’s going to be a busy couple of months for the San Diego Chargers.
Organized team activities (OTAs) begin May 23, followed by mandatory minicamp for veteran players in June and training camp in July.
During that time, we’re going to see plenty of transactions for the Chargers as well as the rest of the NFL teams. That said, there are still a few quality free agents left on the market. Let’s take a look at three players the Chargers could target.
S Walter Thurmond III: The former Eagle transitioned from corner to safety in 2015. It also marked the first year that Thurmond III played–and started for that matter–a full 16-game season. He finished with 71 total tackles, seven pass deflections, three interceptions (including a pick-six) and two forced fumbles.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder plays much bigger than his size entails. Thurmond III was originally Pro Football Focus’ seventh-ranked free-agent safety (Dwight Lowery was No. 10 in case you were wondering). He was the 26th-best safety among 88 qualifiers last season, per PFF. Whether he would start at strong safety or free safety is irrelevant considering ESPN’s Eric Williams stated that the two positions are interchangeable. The physical Thurmond III would add much-needed depth as well as competition between Lowery, Joseph Addae, former CFL standout Dexter McCoil and undrafted free agent Adrian McDonald.
What stands out: The former fourth-round pick is only 28 years old, and his versatility is a big catch. He’d be signed on to play safety but could fill in at corner if needed. Also, Thurmond III has the ability to man the slot, which would give defensive coordinator John Pagano flexibility in sub-packages. Not only can he cover and tackle, but Thurmond III also did a stellar job blitzing. According to PFF, his 87.2 pass-rush rating was the best among safeties.
What will scare you away: Thurmond III has been hit by injury harder than Rougned Odor’s shot on Jose Bautista’s jaw. He’s been hurt in all but one season (played 52 games in six years). Plus, you can’t trust players who thrived in Seattle and left via free agency. Along with Thurmond III, cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell all moved on from the team they first signed with in free agency after one season.
Thurmond III’s also been contemplating retirement, which is likely the reason why he hasn’t been signed yet. A chance to start could change his mind, though. Even though he might not be interested in a one or two-year deal, it’s the only offer the Chargers should make.
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
OG Louis Vasquez: Should the Chargers throw a welcome home party for Vasquez? Vasquez, who was a third-round pick by the Chargers in 2009, spent the last three seasons in Denver. He earned All-Pro honors in 2013. Vasquez carried a $6.75 million cap hit this season, which is one of the reasons why he was released. With the amount of injuries amassed over the past few seasons, the Chargers need to sign everyone they can to sure up the offensive line.
What stands out: Like Thurmond III, Vasquez is fairly young at 29 years old. Even better, he is durable. He’s only missed 10 games over his seven-year career. He’s also one of the better pass-blockers in the league. According to PFF, Vasquez was the only Broncos’ lineman who finished with a positive grade in that category. He also adds versatility after playing some games at right tackle in 2014. Having played in San Diego for four years is beneficial, too.
What will scare you away: Even though he was PFF’s 10th-rated pass-blocker, his poor run-blocking reflected his overall grade (59.9) in 2015. Vasquez reportedly struggled in head coach Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme. As of now, we’re not exactly sure whether the Chargers will continue to run a similar running scheme or move towards a power-running game with the addition of fullback Derek Watt/Chris Swain.
Also, the Chargers already have starting guards in Orlando Franklin and D.J. Fluker (Matt Slauson is an exception because he’s slated to start at center). They also added former Arizona State guard Vi Teofilo, who showed off his strength by recording 43 reps in the 225-pound bench press at his pro day. So while the Chargers are still looking for solid depth, Vasquez may not want to sign here as a backup.
CB Brandon Boykin: The Carolina Panthers signed former Steelers and Eagles cornerback Boykin to a one-year, $840,000 deal this offseason, but he was recently cut. It may come as a surprise, but the Panthers did just draft three cornerbacks.
Boykin, 25, would come in and compete for the slot corner position. The Chargers signed 26-year-old Casey Hayward to a three-year, $15.3 million contract to be that guy, but he could be moved to the outside should Brandon Flowers have another poor year.
Aside from signing the one we do not speak of (Derek Cox) in 2013, the Chargers have had success in signing free-agent corners. 2015 was one to forget for Flowers, but he was a top-20 corner the year before. Last year’s free-agent pickup Patrick Robinson also shined as a Charger. After an up-and-down career with the New Orleans Saints, Robinson was the Chargers’ top slot defender. He appeared in all 16 games and allowed more than 30 receiving yards just once all season, per PFF. It’s too early to say, but the signing of Hayward might end up being the best of the trio.
What stands out:
PFF said it best:
Boykin surrendered one TD in coverage last season for the Steelers—none in 2014 for the Eagles.
More from @PFF_Sam: https://t.co/5hOpdg7iDa
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 16, 2016
What will scare you away:
Honestly, the Boykin situation is a strange one. He’s an incredible athlete with top-notch speed. He is small at 5-foot-9, but that hasn’t stopped him from performing at a high level. According to PFF, Boykin’s never been ranked below 30th in terms of overall cornerback ratings, which included being the second-best coverage corner in 2013.
So why is he moving around the league quicker than a joint at a Tom Petty concert? Is it because he wants to strictly play on the outside? Or does he have an undisclosed injury? Maybe he has an attitude problem?
Nobody knows, but the Chargers may follow the Panthers’ blueprint and develop younger talent on the roster in 2015 third-round pick Craig Mager and 2013 fifth-round pick Stevie Williams. Overall, the Chargers’ secondary is talented, but they could use more depth, especially if it comes at a cheap price.