With over $70 million in expected cap space, the Los Angeles Chargers look to improve upon their 9-8 record in 2021. There are several needs for which the Chargers must address, mainly on the defensive side of the ball. However, the Chargers will only go as far as Justin Herbert takes them. With the expected re-signing of Mike Williams along with a receiving squad that has Pro Bowler Keenan Allen and rising star Joshua Palmer, one might ask why should the Chargers look for another receiver? The answer is simple. If Staley ball is expected to work, the Chargers need consistency.
Keenan Allen is one of the most surehanded wide receivers in the NFL. His ability to contort his body towards the ball complements his All-Pro route running. Because of his ability, NFL teams put a lot of attention on him. Mike Williams is one of the best deep-ball receivers in the NFL, showing his clutch ability in the fourth quarter and overtime period in their week 18 matchup against Las Vegas.
However, Jalen Guyton has shown to have a drop issue and Palmer doesn't quite have the body type to play slot. In fact, the Chargers led the league in dropped passes in the 2021 season. Looking across the way in LA, Cooper Kupp has won the NFL triple crown for receiving. He is the league leader in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and receptions. Kupp is at the forefront of the slot receiver movement. Players such as Kupp, Hunter Renfrow, Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Rondale Moore, Cole Beasley, Kadarius Toney and Amon Ra St-Brown (just to name a few) have exploded onto the scene due to their catching and route-running ability.
Why does the slot position lead to such production? The answer is very simple. From the receiver position, the slot is the closest player to the quarterback. Made popular in the Run n Shoot and Air Raid offenses, the slot has transformed into a staple of any west coast offense. Slants, out routes, streaks and bubble screens called for increased involvement and with Sean McVay sending Kupp over the middle of the field via horizontal routes, he uses other receivers such as Robert Woods, OBJ and Van Jefferson to run in different areas allowing Kupp to find holes in defensive coverages.
This isn't an easy offense to master, it requires a quarterback with an accurate and strong arm. Good thing the Chargers have such a weapon. They just don't have a proper slot receiver. Yes, Keenan Allen does line up in the slot at times but he's too valuable of a weapon and requires too much attention to keep in one place. They need something else.
Here comes Braxton Berrios to the LA Chargers.
The sixth-round pick has found a home for himself with the Jets after a failed stop with the Patriots. Despite a productive 2021, the Jets have yet to re-sign him and have made no clear intention of franchising the promising prospect. His stats are unimpressive, with 46 receptions, 431 yards and 2 touchdowns, Berrios doesn't pop off the screen. I also want to remind you that he plays for the Jets and had Zach Wilson, Mike White and Josh Johnson throwing him the ball.
You need to peel back the tape and examine Berrios with a closer eye. He has excellent footwork and his center of gravity is very low, he makes flawless cuts and turns on a dime. His ability to pick up yards after the catch has served him well and allowed him to become a weapon with bubble screens and hitch routes. Berrios also acts as a running back at times with quick snaps off of motions, taking excellent angles against defenders and finding the pockets of space between the linebackers/ cornerbacks and safeties.
A special teamer as well, Berrios also serves as the Jets returner so there's a backup in case the Chargers choose not to re-sign Andre Roberts or in case he gets hurt. Braxton's ability will force defenses to draw attention to him as well, allowing Mike Williams, Keenan Allen and co. to thrive in less demanding coverages. Keep in mind that Austin Ekeler will have favorable matchups downfield as well.
The money shouldn't be much of an issue, he hasn't shown enough to demand top dollar and second/ third-string receivers have signed very team-friendly contracts in recent years. Keep in mind, the Chargers have a lot to spend. DeVante Parker's 4-year, $30.5 million deal would be a high-end mark in my opinion. However, the Chargers should realistically look at Jamal Agnew's 3-year $14.5 million or Allen Hurns 2-year, $7 million dollar deal. Like I said, for the value, a player like Berrios can bring, that amount is chump change.
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The Chargers shouldn't break the bank for Berrios but they shouldn't pinch pennies either. Berrios can do it all. He's able to run the entire route tree, break off from defensive backs and make the tough catch. That's everything you want in a receiver. Herbert's rookie deal won't last forever, it is time to act and I could not think of a better way to better equip Herbert than with a player of his caliber and potential. Plus that's another draft pick Tom Telesco could use on defense.