Chargers DE Jeremiah Attaochu is an unrestricted free agent. Should the Bolts bring him back?
General manager Tom Telesco took a small gamble when he traded up for Jeremiah Attaochu in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the former second-round pick (No. 50 overall) never panned out to be the pass rusher the Chargers needed him to be.
At the time, the Chargers were in dire need of a pass-rush presence. San Diego ranked towards the bottom in sacks the year prior (2013). Attaochu’s 31.5 career sacks were the most (and still are) in Georgia Tech history. He was named first team All-ACC in his final year with the Yellow Jackets. During the draft, Attaochu was considered to be the last true 3-4 outside linebacker on the board, so it made sense for Telesco to trade up and get his man.
In his NFL debut, Attaochu blocked a punt and recorded a strip-sack against Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer. He played in 11 games, primarily backing up Jarrett Johnson and Dwight Freeney.
However, with Johnson retired and Freeney released, Attaochu got his chance to start alongside Melvin Ingram in 2015–and he shined. In 15 games (12 starts), he finished with 55 total tackles, six sacks (second-most on the team) and one forced fumble.
Attaochu took a big step back in 2016, ending his season with two sacks and 11 total tackles in eight games played (one start). He missed eight games due to a high-ankle sprain and a broken right foot. Not only that, but he also lost playing time to 2015 fifth-rounder Kyle Emanuel before being placed on injured reserve.
Things didn’t get any better for Attaochu in 2017. He dealt with a hamstring injury in the preseason and managed to play in just four regular-season games. To make matters worse, he was a healthy scratch for majority of the season. He finished with a career-low seven total tackles and did not record a single sack. The emergence of Chris McCain, a 2014 undrafted free agent who bounced from team to team before finding a home in Los Angeles, pushed Attaochu to the bench. McCain finished with the third-most sacks (five) on the team.
Where do the Chargers go from here?
Attaochu always had potential, but potential can only get you so far. He never developed into the sack artist we had hoped for. He’s been injured and outplayed the past two seasons, and perhaps he’s not a fit for Gus Bradley’s 4-3 scheme. McCain is a restricted free agent and based off his 2017 play, he’ll certainly be retained (and at a cheaper rate).
Depth is important, but the Chargers shouldn’t go out of their way to pay Attaochu when they have needs elsewhere. If anything, they could look to the draft to find another pass rusher.