The LA Chargers will obviously have some tough decisions to make in free agency, but they’ll also have some calls to make with the players on the roster. As we’ve seen in the NFL for many years, being under contract doesn’t mean much until free agency is complete.
Brandon Mebane and Thomas Davis still had another season left on both of their contracts before they were cut. I wouldn’t have predicted that both would’ve been cut heading into free agency. Davis’ release in particular was a little bit surprising because the depth at linebacker was somewhat thin at the time.
Who might be the vets that get the early boot this year?
Potential LA Chargers’ surprise cut: Casey Hayward
Casey Hayward, unfortunately, dealt with a hamstring injury towards the back half of the season and had his play decline somewhat as a result. He’ll be turning 32 heading into the last year of his contract with the Chargers. Contractually, Los Angeles can save about 9.7 million by releasing him.
Hayward had the worst statistical season of his career in 2020. It’s not particularly close either. His 59.5 PFF grade was 12 points lower than his previous season-low. Another concerning stat for #26 is how he was getting beat on the deep ball. Hayward allowed 16.9 yards per reception, the worst total of his career.
Tackling was also a problem. Eight missed tackles in 2020 is the most since his final Green Bay season in 2015. Whatever stat you want to look at for Hayward’s 2020, it’s probably not pretty.
Adding to the concerns of age and decline is scheme fit. Is a 32 year old Hayward the best fit for a defensive change to the Brandon Staley 3-4 system? That’s still TBD. When I think of all the movement and different defensive coverages that a 26 year old Jalen Ramsey had to be in control of at CB1, it makes Hayward’s situation seem a little more unstable.
The Chargers can technically put Derwin James in that Ramsey role that opens the defense up, but it still feels like they’d need a faster, younger corner on the outside.
Chris Harris is another cut contender here, but he’s a little bit more dynamic with slot ability in comparison to Hayward. Cutting Hayward would be a big decision since he’s been a leader on that defense for a long time. Looking at his decline, age, cap hit, and potential scheme fit issues make it seem likelier though.