Looking into Chargers rookie extension candidates and what they might get

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers
Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The 2021 NFL Draft was the first Chargers draft with head coach Brandon Staley in the building and it ended up being the best of the three drafts that he was a part of. The 2021 class was by no means this groundbreaking class that revolutionized the franchise, it just wasn't awful like other classes.

The Chargers still selected some very talented players in this draft class, including someone with legitimate All-Pro potential. With each of these players entering their fourth season, the Chargers now have the ability to offer extensions to keep each player in Los Angeles.

New GM Joe Hortiz has an admitted love for compensatory picks and he does not have emotional ties to these picks, so we may only end up seeing the Chargers extending one of these players entering the last year of their rookie deal. That being said, there are three players from the 2021 class who have actually earned extension talks.

Chargers rookie extension candidates:

Rashawn Slater

Rashawn Slater is a foundational piece of the Chargers roster and the Bolts have to do everything they can to keep him around. Franchise left tackles do not grow on trees so it would be foolish to not lock down Slater on a long-term deal.

The Chargers could theoretically just pick up Slater's fifth-year option as a first-round pick for the 2025 season and let the next two seasons play out. From there, the Chargers could then negotiate a deal and even use the franchise tag to keep him around.

While possible, the Chargers might be better off just extending him now because his value will only go up in two years. Slater was hurt for most of the 2022 season and played through lingering injuries in 2023. His play, while still great, did take a small step back. The going rate for franchise left tackles will naturally just go up with time, as that is the trend in the NFL.

Slater's camp is going to want a deal in the same ballpark as what Andrew Thomas signed last summer. Slater's camp will want him to break Thomas' average annual value, but the Chargers might be able to get him for slightly under the AAV with more guaranteed.

Projection: Five years, $115 million ($75 million guaranteed)

Asante Samuel Jr.

Chargers fans were over the moon when the team landed Asante Samuel Jr. in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Samuel was viewed as the dream prospect for the Chargers in the second round and he has had some truly great moments in the powder blue.

The problem is that Samuel has not been very consistent and has struggled with both his tackling and his pursuit in the running game. The best version of Samuel is awesome to watch, but that best version doesn't always come out.

That being said, Samuel might be ready for a breakout season to establish himself as a true CB1 under Jesse Minter. If the Chargers are confident in that breakout then they may look to extend Samuel now before his price grows by 30+%.

Slater is the only player on this list that the Chargers should be pounding the table to extend, but a deal for Samuel does still make sense if Minter and Jim Harbaugh are high on him. Samuel would be on the lower end of the mid-tier cornerback salary range.

Projection: Three years, $27 million ($15 million guaranteed)

Joshua Palmer

Joshua Palmer is the perfect candidate to let walk in free agency as wide receivers have more market value and the Chargers could get a good comp pick for him. But then again, the Chargers may have to bring him back out of pure necessity with Keenan Allen getting older and the risk of Quentin Johnston continuing his bust trajectory.

Palmer is likely a "wait and see" situation with the Chargers letting his 2024 season play out before making any decisions on his future. But if the team wanted to get ahead of the curve, they could get Palmer at a reasonable price before a potential breakout season. After all, he still is only 24 years old, so it might not be a bad thing to bet on Palmer.

Palmer's camp will want something close to what Michael Gallup got from the Dallas Cowboys. So if the Chargers are going to do this, they would have to sign Palmer to a longer extension at a more reasonable AAV price. But, in the same breath, this price is what could convince the Chargers not to do it.

Projection: Five years, $60 million ($28 million guaranteed)

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