Chargers 2018 free agency: Zach Brown, Dontari Poe the popular choices among fans
By Matt Pagels
Which free agents do fans want to see play in a Charger uniform?
We took to Twitter and asked Chargers fans who they would like Los Angeles to sign in 2018 free agency.
Linebacker Zach Brown and defensive tackle Dontari Poe were the popular choices. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson’s name also came up several times.
I’ve always been high on Brown, who has been one of the more underrated players over the years. Brown has spent time with three different teams since being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft. Brown parted ways with the Tennessee Titans after his rookie contract expired, and he went on to sign one-year contracts with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. He led both respective teams in combined tackles, including finishing with 100-plus tackles both years. He’s played in all 16 games in four of his six NFL seasons and has 537 combined tackles, 16.5 sacks, 19 pass deflections, seven interceptions and two defensive touchdowns to his name.
After settling for back-to-back one-year deals, Brown is going to want to get paid. It’s already been reported that he wants top-three inside linebacker money. If that’s the case, then he’s looking for around $10-11 million annually. He’ll turn 29 years old in October, which makes it hard for me to commit that much money to him. Eagles star linebacker Nigel Bradham, another unrestricted free agent who turns 29 years old in September, is in the same boat.
If I’m going to dish out money for a linebacker, I’d rather go after Cowboys’ Anthony Hitchens or Titans’ Avery Williamson, who are both turning 26 years old this year. They may not be as fast or athletic as Brown, but both players are on the rise and dominant against the run, which is an area the Chargers desperately need help in. Both players also received much higher grades from Pro Football Focus. They probably won’t be as expensive as Brown or Bradham, too. Hitchens has the versatility to play all linebacker positions and is my top choice. Meanwhile, Bolt Beat’s Travis Wakeman made a solid case for Williamson.
As for Poe, the 2012 first-round pick (No. 11 overall) is definitely an intriguing option. Defensive tackle is one of the team’s top weaknesses. The two-time Pro Bowler bet on himself after signing a one-year, $8 million deal with Atlanta and won. He was a BIG reason why the Falcons ranked No. 9 in rushing defense; they ranked No. 16 in that department a season ago without him. The 6-foot-3, 346-pounder would be an instant upgrade over Brandon Mebane at the 1-tech position. He’s a highly-athletic space-eater who will make life easier for edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. He also offers pass-rush potential, as he finished with 2.5 sacks last year (career total of 15.5). The six-year veteran was dealing with a back injury in his final season as a Chief, but he has only missed two games in his whole career.
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff acknowledged that Poe will likely land a “lucrative deal” elsewhere. Is a nose tackle worth the money? Poe has played at least 70 percent of his team’s defensive snaps every season, so he’s no rotational lineman. The real question is, will the Chargers be able to afford the 27-year-old? Titans DT DaQuan Jones, an unrestricted free agent who is vastly underrated, could be reeled in for less after suffering a season-ending biceps injury in 2017. Or will the Chargers save money by drafting a younger player like Vita Vea, Da’Ron Payne, Maurice Hurst, Harrison Phillips, Derrick Nnadi or Tim Settle with one of their picks? The draft is deep for defensive tackles, which makes me think the latter will happen. I would be happy either way.
Richardson, a 2013 first-round pick (No. 13 overall) who was traded from the New York Jets to the Seattle Seahawks just prior to the 2017 season, finished with the lowest sack total (one sack) of his career. However, sacks don’t always tell the whole story, as he’s one of the better interior rushers and, more importantly, is a top run defender. He’s never received a PFF grade below 80 at any point in his five-year career. He would fit well in Gus Bradley’s 4-3 scheme after getting similar experience in Seattle. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, the addition of Richardson would certainly mean the release of starting 3-tech DT Corey Liuget, who is overpayed. Richardson comes with some character concerns, but he is still in his prime at 27 years old. Unfortunately, he might be out of the Chargers’ price range.
A few other names that were mentioned were kickers Graham Gano and Sebastian Janikowski. The kicker situation needs to be fixed, and Gano is my guy. The Chargers signed Roberto Aguayo to a reserve/futures contract, but it’s only smart to bring in more–and better–competition.