The Chargers' 2022 offseason was defined by a decisively large spending spree in free agency. Solely in terms of signing free agents away from other teams, the Chargers dished out about $80 million in guaranteed money. That's not including the Khalil Mack trade or the Chargers re-signing their internal players, in which case we'd be looking at a figure that goes well past $100 million.
As the Chargers head into 2023 NFL free agency in less than a month, it's fair to say that the experience this year will be different. The Chargers will have to work within the margins now as a team that's $23 million over the cap. My question almost a year removed from last March: was the Chargers' all-in push worth it? How does each individual signing hold up after the 2022 campaign?
Grading the Chargers free agency signings from 2022:
CB J.C. Jackson: 5 years, $82.5 million ($40 million guaranteed)
This was the Chargers' biggest splurge on the market last year. J.C. Jackson was supposed to be the final missing piece to Brandon Staley's defense. A bona fide CB1 was in the building.
Unfortunately, year one did not go as planned. Just weeks before the 2022 season, Jackson underwent ankle surgery. He missed the first game of the season against the Raiders and then proceeded to have a series of poor performances that led to a benching in favor of Michael Davis against the Broncos.
As Jackson started to turn the corner with a quality performance against Seattle, disaster struck. The Pro Bowl corner had his season ended by a torn patellar tendon.
The former Patriots' star faces an uphill battle to get back to 100% before the season starts. Right now, the odds are against him. Very few cornerbacks and wide receivers historically have bucked the trend of not coming back the same after the patellar tendon injury. Jackson has also dealt with some off-the-field issues that have had his name in the press for the wrong reasons.
In some sense, I'd get giving Jackson an incomplete grade simply because we don't know with certainty how he'll come back after injuring his knee. But here's why that's tough: standing here today, it's likelier that Jackson is cut after year two as opposed to getting to play into year three or four of the original contract. The Chargers can save $14 million if he's released with a post-June 1st designation in 2024.
He didn't play particularly well when he was able to, faces a daunting injury to attempt to come back from, and was given $40 million guaranteed to be CB1. As it stands today, the Jackson contract was a disaster that Tom Telesco probably wishes he could take back.
J.C. Jackson signing grade: D