How the Los Angeles Chargers can win free agency
By Matt Pagels
Free agency is upon us. What moves should the Los Angeles Chargers make in order to improve the team?
Oh, free agency. What a wonderful time of the year. It’s like a second Christmas for us fans.
And just like parents or guardians gearing up to go shopping for their family and friends, some teams have the cash to spend and others don’t. But all the money in the world doesn’t always buy happiness, or a championship in our case.
As for the Los Angeles Chargers, they rank towards the bottom in their salary-cap situation. They did, however, release a trio of players and reportedly cleared around $19.3 million in cap space, which adds up to roughly $24 million, per OverTheCap.com. Don’t count out other cuts or restructured contracts that will likely happen over the next few days.
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Luckily, the Chargers are actually in a good position because they already have a ton of talent on the team. They finished 5-11 last season, but their record doesn’t tell the whole story. If the 2016 season showed us anything, it’s that the Chargers have solid depth, considering they competed in all but two games despite playing without several key players. The Chargers will get players like WR Keenan Allen and CB Jason Verrett back, so those are “key additions” right there. Not only that, but the Chargers hold the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and should find even more playmakers.
That said, it’s hard to “win” free agency. Like the NFL draft, free agency is a crapshoot, and for GM Tom Telesco, he hasn’t exactly made the best of moves.
Of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 free agents signed, only King Dunlap (2013-current), Orlando Franklin (2015-current), Joe Barksdale (2015-current) and Chris Hairston (2015-current) remain on the roster. CB Brandon Flowers, like both Dunlap and Barksdale, excelled while on his first contract with the Bolts, but his play declined and he was hampered by injuries soon after re-signing; he was released on Tuesday. A mix of both high-paid players and bargain buys have let the team down, including players like CB Derek Cox, WR Jacoby Jones, RB Donald Brown, LG Chad Rinehart and CB Jimmy Wilson (and that doesn’t include the re-signings of players like LB Donald Butler and, unless he turns things around, DT Corey Liuget). Meanwhile, Danny Woodhead, who was signed in 2013, panned out; the 32-year-old RB is now an unrestricted free agent. Cornerback Patrick Robinson also shined after being signed to a one-year deal two years ago; he wasn’t retained.
2016 free agency was a better one for Telesco. He stole an elite corner in Casey Hayward away from Green Bay, signed an above-average center in Matt Slauson and brought in nose tackle Brandon Mebane, who helped turn the Chargers’ run defense around. I’m not giving up on WR Travis Benjamin just yet. He flashed potential early on in the season before hobbling his way to the finish line. Plus, he was thrust into the No. 1 receiver role when Allen went down, and he’s not a No. 1. The speedster’s play will improve as soon as Allen returns to the lineup, and he could also be given a second chance at returning punts.
The Chargers have to be wise with their money in free agency, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make some moves. They have a chance to shore up some holes, especially on a badly-graded offensive line. Let’s see how L.A.’s newest football team can win free agency.
Note: This list will exclude majority of the team’s unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents that we already projected be re-signed