Chargers’ top positional needs going into the offseason: Kicker

The Los Angeles Chargers are a team on the rise. However, there are a few areas they need to address entering the 2018 offseason. Let’s start with the position that ultimately cost the Chargers a 2017 postseason berth.

It pains me to write this. It was one of the main reasons why the Chargers (9-7) missed the playoffs in 2017.

One. Kick. Away.

You know, the blocked field goal that would have tied it or missed field goal that would have won it with seconds remaining in back-to-back games to begin the season. I think the Chargers would have made some serious noise in the playoffs, too. Whatevz.

The Chargers made the mistake of releasing kicker Josh Lambo prior to the season opener for a publicity stunt–and they paid for it all year long. The Bolts finished dead last in field-goal percentage (66.7). They also connected on just 37-of-42 extra points, the third-worst mark in the league.

Four players attempted at least one field goal this season: Younghoe Koo, Nick Novak, Travis Coons and Nick Rose. Koo and Coons were cut midseason, Novak, who was placed on injured reserve, will become an unrestricted free agent and Rose, who was claimed off waivers after signing a two-year deal with Washington, is currently on the books ($555,000) for the 2018 season.

ARLINGTON, TX – NOVEMBER 23: Nick Novak #9 of the Los Angeles Chargers winces after kicking a field goal in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Even punter Drew Kaser, who was forced to fill in for an injured Novak mid-game vs. the Dallas Cowboys, showcased his skills on the sideline. He did go 1-for-3 on extra points that game.

The Chargers recently addressed the situation by signing former second-round pick Roberto Aguayo to a reserve/future contract. The most accurate kicker in NCAA history has struggled mightily since entering the NFL in 2016. It doesn’t hurt to give the 23-year-old another chance, especially when it will cost the Chargers next to nothing; but it shouldn’t stop Los Angeles from adding another kicker (or two).

Dream scenario: Sign every free agent available, use every draft pick on a kicker and have them fight each other for supremacy gladiator-style.

Being realistic: Sign Graham Gano.

Gano, who has spent the past six seasons with the Carolina Panthers, will head into the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. After missing eight field goals a season ago, the most since his 2011 campaign, Gano turned in a Pro Bowl performance in 2017. He finished with a career-high and league-best 96.7 field-goal percentage (minimum six games played), with his only miss coming off a 55-yard field-goal attempt. It should be noted that it was his only 50-plus-yard attempt of the season. He also ranked second in touchbacks with 70. Overall, Gano is 73-for-91 (80 percent) on field goals between 40-49 in his career.

So if you’re looking for accuracy AND a strong leg, Gano is the best of the bunch. However, he turns 31 years old in April. Plus, there’s a good chance he re-signs with the Panthers unless he is offered more money elsewhere. UFAs Caleb Sturgis, Cairo Santos and Dustin Hopkins are younger and decent options, too.

Backup plan: Draft a kicker in Rounds 4-7. 

Just for clarification, kicker is a top need, but it doesn’t mean the Chargers should draft one with their first-, second- or even third-round pick.

Auburn’s Daniel Carlson is the top-rated kicker. Florida’s Eddie Pineiro is right behind him. Carlson is the SEC’s all-time leading scorer. Pineiro is the most accurate kicker in his program’s history. We saw what happened with the accurate Aguayo, but lightning never strikes twice in the same place (or will it)? Just don’t reach.