Last week, we went over who the Los Angeles Chargers need to retain going into the 2020 season among their free agents. Now it’s time to delve into the players that should be left to walk. Some of the players on this list might not see new teams at all, but others probably will. So which players should the Chargers part ways with?
2020 Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency: Players to Not Retain
Whether Melvin Gordon should be kept or not is probably up for debate more than any other Chargers free agent (except Philip Rivers, of course). It could also be debatable as to who regressed harder in 2019. Gordon had a tumultuous season that started with a holdout, which ended after a few missed games. Then he came back and played quite poorly in a three-game stretch which was capped by his infamous goal-line fumble against the Tennessee Titans in the final seconds.
Gordon did bounce back for a bit after that, having a couple of multi-touchdown games and one 100-yard game. However, he lost two fumbles again in Week 15 against the Minnesota Vikings. This put him up to four fumbles with three lost – both his worst since his rookie year. His 3.8 yards per carry was also his worst since his rookie year. If Gordon’s learned his lesson since his holdout, a one-year “prove it” deal would be the best option for retaining. Otherwise, he’s lost too much goodwill between the holdout and the on-the-field struggles. It’s time for the Chargers to find a new running back.
Despite being primarily a vertical speed threat (which the Chargers usually have at least one of), wide receiver Travis Benjamin has never really flourished with the Chargers. He’s had a few good games here and there over the past four years, but he’s never been more than a #3 option at best. That’s what he started out as this year – and only had six catches for 30 yards before ending up on injured reserve. That left the Chargers with Andre Patton as their next option at the third wide receiver position – and that was even worse. Austin Ekeler practically became the de facto third receiver.
Benjamin’s numbers have regressed every year since he joined the Chargers. He had 677 yards and four touchdowns in 2016, and it could be argued he only had that many stats because Keenan Allen missed essentially the whole year. And he only had 186 yards and one touchdown in 2018. The Chargers need to find a better third receiver because Benjamin is not that guy. Neither are any of the other backup receivers left on the roster.
This one’s due less to a lack of talent and more due to oversaturation at his position for the Chargers – and also not standing out enough amongst them. Damion Square plays the defensive tackle position and has been okay there. He can both get occasional sacks and defend a few passes a year. But the Chargers already have four defensive/nose tackles on the roster who are not free agents. That includes Jerry Tillery, Brandon Mebane, Justin Jones, and Cortez Broughton.
Tillery is 2019’s first-round pick, and while he didn’t really live up to that in his rookie year, he still has promise. Mebane has been a decent veteran for the Chargers, and Jones is another decent young lineman much like Square. Now if Mebane were to retire (at 35 years old), it might be worth bringing back Square after all. But in the meantime, there are too many options already at the position to justify making him a priority right now.
The safety position was supposed to be stacked for the Chargers. However, three of them ended up on injured reserve, and aside from Rayshawn Jenkins, the guys left didn’t make much of an impact. This includes Jaylen Watkins, who was actually part of the initial roster cuts last year after preseason but was re-signed later. And in 14 games, he put in 29 tackles and one pass defended.
Watkins hasn’t done much since leaving the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent all of 2018 on injured reserve and then failed to make an impact in 2019. The Chargers would be better served looking elsewhere at this point if they want to bring in more young talent at the position.
Last Word on Chargers Free Agency
Not a ton of folks here on the “let ‘em walk” side of things, but there are a few. And there’s a few more who are likely to walk just because of lack of snaps (Jatavis Brown, Isaac Rochell). The most obvious one here should be letting Travis Benjamin walk and getting an upgrade at the third wide receiver position.
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