Chargers gifted perfect free-agent target in recently-released veteran

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the team is coming off a 5-12 season and is way over next year's salary cap, there is a strong foundation in place for the LA Chargers to return to the playoffs in 2024. After all, with Jim Harbaugh leading the way and a new front office regime, things will naturally be different.

The Chargers need to put together a strong offseason in order to accomplish this goal of a quick turnaround. This means nailing the selections in the 2024 NFL Draft, as well as making smart moves in free agency where the money makes sense.

While the Chargers are currently over the salary cap, the team can make several moves to free up over $62 million in cap space. With the 2024 salary cap being higher than projected, this will give the Chargers enough room to sign several cheap free agents to build out of the depth of the roster.

Free agency has not even started and the Chargers already have a no-brainer free agent to target this March thanks to the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta waived veteran tight end Jonnu Smith, who makes all the sense in the world for the Bolts to pursue in free agency.

Jonnu Smith would be a great signing for the Chargers

Jonnu Smith may not be an elite TE1 and he should not be the only addition that the Chargers make to the tight end room this offseason but he would be a great start. If the Chargers pass on Brock Bowers in the first round and draft a blocking tight end later in the draft, signing Smith to help with the pass-catching duties would be smart.

There are a lot of tight ends who can be signed for cheap that can be a passing threat for Justin Herbert. Heck, Hunter Henry is back on the market and he should be available to be signed for a cheap price.

What makes Smith such an intriguing target is the fact that he will not count towards the team's compensatory pick formula this offseason. Atlanta cannot collect a compensatory pick for Smith because the team waived him. That means that signing him won't take away from any potential picks the Chargers are set to receive.

If Smith was a natural free agent and the Chargers signed him to the same contract that Gerald Everett gets from another team then the two signings would cancel each other out and the Bolts would not get a comp pick. However, in this case, the Chargers can sign Smith to whatever contract they please and not have to worry about losing out on a 2025 pick.

Joe Hortiz has made it clear that he loves compensatory picks, so we know that this is something he will value this offseason. With that in mind, it is abundantly clear that Jonnu Smith is the right free-agent tight end for the Bolts to sign, as long as there is not a massive bidding war.