The Los Angeles Chargers don’t have many “prized” free agents hitting the market in the offseason, but one of their top pass-rushers could price himself out of L.A.
According to a post on Twitter, Chargers DE/OLB Melvin Ingram is reportedly asking for a lot of money.
Colts could be a possible landing spot for LB Melvin Ingram. Ingram is reportedly asking for Olivier Vernon money (5 yers, $85M)
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) February 19, 2017
This is the only rumor, so take it with a grain of salt. If it becomes accurate in the coming month, then it’ll be newsworthy.
Pro Football Focus listed Ingram as their No. 1 free agent likely to hit free agency. He graded out as PFF’s sixth-best and 18th-best overall edge defender in 2016 and 2015, respectively. Ingram, who turns 28 years old in April, is going to be a top target for many teams.
As for the Chargers, they might be in a bit of a pickle. Aside from NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa, Ingram was the Bolts’ best pass-rusher. He has 18.5 sacks in the past two seasons and finished with a pass-rush grade of +84.9 last season. Not only that, but he’s a versatile playmaker who can defend the run well and cover if needed. Having a player of Ingram’s caliber opposite Bosa is crucial–and both have developed a good chemistry in just one year.
But the money he’s asking for is top dollar, which begs the question: Is Ingram elite?
Prior to 2015-16, Ingram was injured (missed 19 games from 2013-14) and inconsistent when on the field. He’s never made the Pro Bowl and only has 24.5 career sacks, including just one season where he finished with double-digit sacks (2015). He still struggles to finish, too. Sacks don’t always mean everything, but they mean a lot when you need a big stop on third down and the opposing QB slips away to create a first down. We’ve seen it happen too many times (and that goes for all players).
Back to the money. Here are the average salary rankings for defensive linemen, a position where Ingram will likely play in DC Gus Bradley’s 4-3 scheme. According to Spotrac, the five highest-paid linemen are DT Ndamukong Suh, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Fletcher Cox, DE Olivier Vernon and DE J.J. Watt, all of whom are making at least $16 million per year. If Ingram is asking for $17 million a year in salary, he’d be tied with Vernon for the fourth-most money (and second-most for a DE). Vernon scored a big contract from the Giants last offseason despite having just 29 sacks in four years with the Dolphins. However, he’s 26 years old and has never missed a game (including last season).
Again, Ingram can do it all and has the skill set to be moved around on defense, so letting him walk puts the Chargers in a hole, especially since they don’t have a reliable replacement on the roster. The team has failed several times when it comes to re-signing their own. As for defensive re-signings, DL Corey Liuget, who is the 13th-highest paid lineman, has underwhelmed since signing his extension. Former LB Donald Butler is another recent example of when things didn’t pan out.
The Chargers could slap the franchise tag on Ingram, but it would cost them roughly $15.3 million this season, per ESPN Stats & Information. As of now, the Chargers have roughly $21 million in cap space, per OverTheCap.com (this is not taking into account the release of certain players as well as the rise in salary cap). If the Chargers don’t re-sign Ingram, look for the team to select a pass-rusher at No. 7 overall. Players like Solomon Thomas and Derek Barnett should be available by the time the Bolts pick.
With that said, we know Ingram is going to get paid, and he’s a WAY better defender than both Liuget and Butler. I’m just not sure if the Chargers should (and could) pay him all that money.