Latest Chargers coaching hire may guarantee return of prominent free agent

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After a long, drawn-out head coaching search (that mostly consisted of waiting for Jim Harbaugh to win the National Championship), the Chargers have been very quick in building out a staff and front office around their new head coach.

The Chargers are looking to change the culture with Harbaugh in charge and have hired a lot of talented people from great organizations to accomplish that goal. While nothing is guaranteed, this staff has the makings of being the best top-to-bottom coaching staff that the Bolts have assembled in recent franchise history.

Just when Chargers fans thought the coaching news would slow down it continues to ramp back up. On Sunday, it was reported that the Chargers were hiring Notre Dame safeties coach Chris O'Leary. This is a prominent hire as O'Leary has coached up several excellent safeties at Notre Dame, including the best young safety in the league, Kyle Hamilton.

This is great news for someone like Derwin James but it also might be great news for someone else. With O'Leary now in the building, there is a prominent Chargers free agent whose odds of returning just shot up: Alohi Gilman.

Chris O'Leary hire may guarantee Alohi Gilman's Chargers return

Alohi Gilman is one of several Chargers free agents this offseason and there is no denying that fans want to see him back in Los Angeles. Gilman finally got consistent playing time in 2023 and put together a very promising season that he can continue to build on as a pro.

O'Leary wasn't the safeties coach when Gilman transferred over from Navy but he was still on the defensive staff and has a rapport with the four-year pro. The NFL is a league of connections and that connection alone very well could be the difference between Gilman staying and leaving.

Of course, there are a lot of variables that go into this that go deeper than just O'Leary. After all, Chargers GM Joe Hortiz loves compensatory picks and Gilman could net the team a compensatory pick if he signs for high enough in free agency.

If there is any kind of bidding war for Gilman then O'Leary likely won't be able to keep him in town just on relationship alone. However, there is a good chance that Gilman is available to sign for cheap, which would not disrupt the compensatory pick formula for the Chargers.

And if it really came down to it, it seems likely that the Chargers would favor bringing back a safety who was already on the team and has a connection with a new member of the coaching staff rather than sign a random veteran safety or take a flier in the NFL Draft.

Next. Bold predict. Bold predictions for Harbaugh's first offseason in LA. dark