How what the Chargers have (and haven’t) done in free agency affects selection at No. 28.
There were, by my estimation, four areas of concern heading into free agency: Right tackle, linebacker, free safety, and interior defensive line. No moves have been made at tackle. To address the linebacker position, the Chargers signed veteran Thomas Davis to a two-year, $10.5 million contract, as well as bring back Denzel Perryman for two more years. Davis is slated to play WILL in Gus Bradley’s defense, though he admitted that he could play at multiple spots throughout the year. At free safety, the Chargers brought back Jaylen Watkins for one more year, who was projected to have a significant role with the team last year before being lost to an ACL injury. The team also released safety Jahleel Addae. Multi-tool “safety” Adrian Phillips was also brought back for one more season, but his role last season indicates that he is unlikely to permanently fill the free safety role. Finally, on the interior of the defensive line, the Bolts re-signed veteran NT Brandon Mebane, did not pick up Corey Liuget’s option, and are still waiting to re-sign Darius Philon and Damion Square.
Though true starters are needed at free safety and linebacker, I believe the team is willing to enter this season with the players they have at each position filling those roles. If Telesco chooses to address those two spots with draft picks, the current state of the roster suggests that he will do so with later selections, something he has shown to be great at.
The selection comes down to interior defensive line and right tackle. As of right now, only Mebane and Justin Jones occupy the NT/DT position. If the team does not re-sign Philon and Square, there is a legitimate possibility that defensive line becomes the selection at 28, a need that may have been filled in the first round last year if not for James sliding to the team at pick 17. However, it is unlikely Telesco lets both Philon and Square walk in free agency, and fans should expect at least one of them to return to the team. This particular draft class is also full of solid prospects along the defensive line that can be had in later rounds, and I would expect the team to go there on Day 2.
The pick will be, by my estimation, a right tackle. It is clear that the team has some hope for Tevi, and that he will improve in his third year on the roster having started 17 regular season and postseason games for the Chargers last year. If the team did not believe he would improve at all, they would likely have paid a mid-range reserve tackle in free agency. Why spend money on an average player when Tevi could at the very least improve to that level? If they’re looking for his replacement, it has to be a much better player that can be found in one of two ways: A high-paid free agent or a first-round draft pick. Clearly, the Chargers did not have plans for major spending in free agency. Starting tackles can be found in the second round, but at the back end of that round, can the team wait that long? The team certainly cannot wait for a late pick to develop for them; that’s what Tevi is. It has to be with the first-round pick. As mentioned in the previous slide, the path for the team to be patient and get a great tackle prospect at No. 28 has been paved by the actions of teams in front of them, in which there are only three likely teams looking to take a tackle in front of them.
Given that the offensive line yielded pressure to Philip Rivers on 70.6 percent of his first half snaps against the New England Patriots, their current lack of legitimate options on the roster, the moves of teams in front of them, and their own moves in free agency, all signs point to the Chargers taking that cornerstone tackle in the first round.