Predicting the Los Angeles Chargers’ offseason plan before free agency

By Tyler Schoon
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CARSON, CA – SEPTEMBER 30: Tight end Antonio Gates #85 of the Los Angeles Chargers scores a touchdown at StubHub Center on September 30, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA – SEPTEMBER 30: Tight end Antonio Gates #85 of the Los Angeles Chargers scores a touchdown at StubHub Center on September 30, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

The Chargers will begin free agency this Wednesday. Let’s try and predict what their offseason moves will be before then!

The Los Angeles Chargers are known by fans to be “boring” in free agency, and this year should be no different; after all, a team that went 12-4 only needs so much more to reach the Super Bowl. I expect them to be relatively quiet in free agency. But before then, I’ll try and guess their offseason moves prior to free agency.

Moves of note (as of the Sunday prior to free agency) include:

  • Not picking up DT Corey Liuget’s option.
  • Releasing S Jahleel Addae.
  • Re-signing MLB Denzel Perryman to a two year, $12 million deal.

From here, I fully expect the Chargers to give contracts to multi-tool defensive back Adrian Phillips and budding interior defensive lineman Darius Philon. Antonio Gates is also likely to be back with the team, though there appears to never be a rush to bring him back. Tyrell Williams is all but gone in free agency, and will be a great acquisition for another receiver-needy team.

The most notable player remaining on the chopping block is wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who carries a $6.5 million cap hit in 2019. I don’t believe the Chargers will cut him, and some clutch prime time catches may have earned him a spot on the roster in the coaches’ eyes. However, after the somewhat surprising release of Addae, the chances of him being cut increases.

There are five holes I believe need to be addressed this year:

  1. Offensive tackle: Sam Tevi may not be cutting it at right tackle, and Russell Okung will be 32 later this season.
  2. Free safety: After releasing Addae, the Chargres’ options at free safety are murky. Does the team really plan on Jaylen Watkins (ACL) and Rayshawn Jenkins (9.27 percent of the defense’s 2018 snaps) taking that spot?
  3. Interior defensive line: This is assuming Darius Philon returns as well. I like Philon quite a bit, and Justin Jones could be the run-stuffer the team expects him to be, but I truly believe the Chargers could use starting-level talent at this position.
  4. Guard: Forrest Lamp is a giant mystery and Dan Feeney didn’t take a big step forward in his second year.
  5. Inside linebacker: Denzel Perryman is an injury away from leaving the team barren at the position.

Before we break those down, here’s what Chargers fans expect will happen in the first round of the NFL draft:

#Chargers re-sign Perryman, cut Addae, let Liuget go.

So…what's the first round move?

— Bolt Beat (@BB_Chargers) March 9, 2019

That’s nearly a tie between offensive tackle, inside linebacker, and interior defensive linemen. It goes to show that the Chargers truly are in need of upgrades at multiple positions.

If Philon returns, the only true “hole” in the roster is free safety. Telesco has replaced glaring weaknesses in the roster, particularly where the position is devoid of talent, with free agents before: In 2017, the team cut King Dunlap in favor of Russell Okung, and last year Spencer Pulley was eventually waived after Mike Pouncey’s signing made him expendable. At free safety, the Chargers only have a fourth-round pick and a player returning from a season-ending injury as their options. There’s no way Telesco lets the team head into 2019 regular season with only those two on the roster.

Often times, the Chargers’ first-round draft picks are incredibly predictable, especially when it comes to need. The team needed a corner and got Jason Verrett, needed a running back and got Melvin Gordon, and needed a receiver (since Keenan Allen was unreliable) and got Mike Williams. This time, they need a free safety; however, I don’t think Telesco makes the fans wait that long to have that need satisfied.

The current list of notable NFL free agent safeties looks like (now excluding Eric Weddle):

The free agent market for safeties is flooded with talent:

Landon CollinsEarl ThomasLamarcus JoynerTyrann MathieuAdrian AmosHa-Ha Clinton-DixEric WeddleClayton Geathers Glover QuinTre BostonKenny VaccaroGeorge IlokaJimmie WardAdrian Phillips

I mean, wow!

— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) March 5, 2019

Again, I expect Phillips back with the Chargers, but we’ll see him use many of his snaps at linebacker. The team needs a true free safety to pair with Derwin James, particularly one that excels in pass coverage over run support (though both are nice). The Chargers are likely going to sign someone off the free safety market; the question is, who?