Chargers have new Brandon Staley-inspired FA target thanks to Browns

Los Angeles Chargers v Cleveland Browns
Los Angeles Chargers v Cleveland Browns / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The LA Chargers had one of the most aggressive offseasons in franchise history in 2021 and now the team is forced to be much more modest. Instead of having an insane amount of salary cap space, the Chargers actually have to free up money just to become cap compliant.

The Chargers will have to free up just over $24 million to pay its draft class and that is just the start. The team is going to need to free up even more money to re-sign any expiring free agents. Luckily, there are several ways the Bolts can free up salary-cap space as they can free up as much as $36 million.

While the Chargers cannot go on a spending spree, they can give themselves the ability to sign a small number of cheap free agents. The cheap options in the NFL may not seem like the best but last offseason, the Chargers hit a home run on two cheap free agents in Morgan Fox and Bryce Callahan. Both had previous ties to Brandon Staley.

There is a new free agent with ties to Brandon Staley now on the market that could be this year's version of Callahan and Fox. The Cleveland Browns are set to release safety John Johnson at the start of the new league year.

John Johnson would fit seamlessly in Chargers defense.

Nasir Adderley is a free agent this offseason and after being benched in the AFC Wild Card Round, chances are that he is not going to be returning to the team in 2023. It is better for all parties if Adderley finds a new home in 2023.

The team does have Alohi Gilman and second-year safety JT Woods but more help is needed. Gilman shined in his chances but does not have positional flexibility while Woods could not even see the field last season and is impossible to trust. Plus, the Chargers may have ideas of moving him to cornerback.

Johnson is someone who thrived in Brandon Staley's defense and could slot into that free safety spot with ease. Staley's defensive identity is all about depth and versatility in the defensive back room and if he can replace Callahan with Johnson (even if it is not a direct replacement) then that would be a huge win.

Staley is not the only coach that Johnson has ties to on this Chargers staff, either. New linebackers coach Jeff Howard was the DBs coach/pass game coordinator for the Cleveland Browns for three years. He too is familiar with Johnson and can bridge that gap.

It will be interesting to see what Johnson's market looks like. If there is any kind of bidding war for him then the Chargers obviously have to be out. However, if he is available for cheap (which is possible) then he would be an excellent fit on this defense.