The Los Angeles Chargers have been relatively quiet in free agency. How quiet? Well, the Chargers have signed only one free agent outside of their own.
When free agency kicked off on March 9, the Chargers made somewhat of a big splash, signing former Seahawks and Broncos LT Russell Okung to a four-year, $53 million deal with $25 million guaranteed.
Aside from beating out the Minnesota Vikings to acquire the 29-year-old tackle, the Chargers haven’t brought in any new blood. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler pointed out that the Chargers are one of three teams that signed just one external free agent. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans are the other two teams. Here’s what Fowler had to say.
“Though inactivity in the new landscape is a bit surprising, the list of teams being inactive are not. The Chargers, Steelers and Texans have drafted well in recent years and are considered to have pretty deep rosters. That’s why they are choosing to re-sign their own players… The Chargers were considered one of the most attractive head-coaching vacancies this offseason because the roster was talented and underachieving.”
Just because the Chargers haven’t signed more external free agents doesn’t mean they “lost” free agency. The Chargers re-signed key impact players and solid role players. The team gave the franchise tag to DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, re-signed starting SS Jahleel Addae, brought back defensive linemen Damion Square and Tenny Palepoi, reached a deal with OL Kenny Wiggins, tendered RFA’s Dontrelle Inman and Korey Toomer, tendered ERFA Andre Williams (among others) and kept their long snapper, Mike Windt, who’s been with the team since 2010.
Continuity is important in the NFL, and you could argue that majority of those re-signings are good-to-great players, with Ingram being the top dawg of the group. Aside from Windt (30), each player is younger than 30 years old, too.
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Allowing third-down specialist Danny Woodhead to walk was the only questionable call. Woodhead was a big part of the offense, but he turned 32 years old in January and was coming off a torn ACL. Not only that, but he’s missed 27 games over the last three years. I was fine with losing Woodhead, but the team needed to find a replacement (unfortunately, a similar but younger player in Rex Burkhead signed with the New England Patriots).
The Chargers may not have all the money in the world, but after several cuts, they created a decent amount of cap space (roughly $17.3 million to spend which doesn’t include money allocated for draft picks, per OverTheCap.com). Despite not having a plethora of holes, they still need to add depth to the offensive line, safety, running back and corner positions. Perhaps general manager Tom Telesco will add one other external free agent with that money.
Like Fowler said, the Chargers are more talented than what their 5-11 record indicates. They couldn’t close out games and lost a league-high 21 players to injured reserve in 2016, per ESPN’s Eric Williams. The Chargers hired an aggressive disciplinarian as their new head coach in Anthony Lynn, and the team will get back players like WR Keenan Allen and CB Jason Verrett. Getting back those key players are comparable to “new signings.”
And with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, expect Telesco to select the best available players while also turning weaknesses into strengths. In a deep class like this one, the Chargers should be able to find Day 1 contributors in almost every round, especially since they are picking near the top.