At the outset of free agency, many fans eagerly await the signing of a big-name player. Spoiler alert: It’s not happening…
The Los Angeles Chargers probably aren’t going to sign your big-splash, big-name, big-contract free agents. Would adding C.J. Mosley and Earl Thomas help the Chargers win this year? Absolutely, and there remains a possibility that the Bolts take this approach. However, it’s unlikely they make any significant splashes in free agency, not with the impending extensions of several key Chargers.
Players with expiring contracts within the next two years (according to Spotrac) include:
- 2020: QB Philip Rivers, C Mike Pouncey, RB Melvin Gordon, TE Hunter Henry, LB Jatavis Brown, RB Austin Ekeler, CB Michael Davis
- 2021: DE Melvin Ingram, LT Russell Okung, WR Keenan Allen, DE Joey Bosa, LB Denzel Perryman, DB Desmond King
I’m willing to bet most fans would love to keep Rivers and Bosa, but both will demand large contracts in separate years. Who else do you part with? You could draft linemen to replace Pouncey and Okung, but where does Telesco’s track record show he can draft linemen of their caliber? He does it in free agency, which means more money allocated to their positions, assuming they’re not kept. Are you willing to part with Gordon and Henry tomorrow for a free safety today?
The top five most expensive safety contracts in terms of 2019 cap hit are all above $12 million; guys like Earl Thomas or Landon Collins could be looking for something north of that number. The big-name free agent inside linebackers will likely be paid $15 million per season annually. Look for Telesco to make smart moves like Casey Hayward’s initial three year, $15.3 million deal, or Pouncey’s two year, $15 million contract. Even as recent as a few days ago, the Chargers extended Perryman for two more years at $12 million total; that’s the Tom Telesco way.
Though upgrades at right tackle, middle linebacker, and defensive tackle are needed, it’s cost-effective for the Chargers to add legitimate talent through the draft while also beneficial to the overall roster to let their current talent have one more shot at growth. Draft picks should be brought in to compete with current starters, as was the case last year with Kyzir White and Jatavis Brown. Sam Tevi, Perryman, and Justin Jones (along with the potential return of Darius Philon and/or Damion Square) can be given every opportunity to seize a starting position while draft picks can develop behind them, if not take their place. Immediately replacing them with high-paid free agents, which can work, negates the ability for that talent to grow.
So no, they’re not going to sign your favorite free agent player. They have the cap space, maybe, and could in theory do the fan-favorite move of cutting Travis Benjamin. But at the outset of free agency, don’t expect much from the Chargers. Adding just Pouncey and Virgil Green last year, the Bolts went 12-4; they don’t need much more to surpass that this season.