The LA Chargers fell short in making the playoffs in the 2021 season after losing to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 18. One week later, the Raiders fell to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card Round. That Bengals team just upset the Kansas City Chiefs, after also beating the no. 1 seed Tennessee Titans, to make the Super Bowl.
There are naturally some comparisons between the Chargers because of Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow. While Herbert has had better numbers, Burrow is already in the Super Bowl in year two and that cannot be discounted.
It can be frustrating for Charger fans considering just how special Justin Herbert is. Herbert did not get the same help that Joe Burrow got in the NFL Playoffs (although Burrow is still playing really well) and if the Chargers could just figure out the depth, the Bengals have shown them that they can make a run.
In fact, with a big chunk of cap space this offseason, the Chargers should look at what the Cincinnati Bengals did last offseason when they had a big chunk of offseason.
The Bengals have created the offseason blueprint for the LA Chargers.
The Bengals went all-in on the defensive side of the ball and the Chargers need to do the same thing this offseason. While the Bolts still have the 2022 NFL Draft to utilize, the Bengals have shown that you can rebuild a defense in one offseason as long as you make the right moves.
The biggest signing was edge rusher Trey Hendrickson and at the time that move was ridiculed by some pundits as an overpay. Hendrickson was one of the most impactful players on the entire Bengals' roster this season.
The Bengals rebuilt the secondary in free agency as well. Cincy signed Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, Ricardo Allen and Eli Apple. While guys like Allen and Apple may not have seemed like big signings, as we saw on Sunday, they can make a world of difference. Apple had arguably the biggest defensive play of the game by stopping Tyreek Hill from getting to the endzone before the half.
The Bengals also signed defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and right tackle Riley Reiff.
So what does this mean for the LA Chargers? If they copy the Bengals to a tee then they might let Mike Williams walk, sign starting-caliber cornerbacks, re-sign Kyzir White and sign another lineback and sign interior defensive linemen. That could open the door to draft a first-round wide receiver and then a right tackle in the second round.
The Chargers do not have to let Williams walk, but the Bengals showed that the team should spend on defense. The Chargers cannot pinch pennies and let guys walk and try and replace them in the 2022 NFL Draft. Rookies can rarely have a huge impact in year one, and as we saw with Denzel Perryman/Kenneth Murray, sometimes it does not work at all.
The Chargers still have to be savvy with who they bring in. They cannot make Chris Harris-like signings that do not help the team. However, just because they struck out on Harris does not mean they should be stingy. The Bengals have showcased just that.
At the end of the day, the Chargers will never make a run like the Bengals if the defense continues to play at the level it played in 2021. Use the Bengals as a blueprint and go all-in on defense this offseason. We dare you.