It’s been a week and a half now since free agency officially began. Much to the relief of NFL fans, this was not postponed by the COVID-19 crisis. The Los Angeles Chargers proved to be a little more active this time compared to the last couple of years. So let’s take a look at the Chargers free agency moves thus far–what they did and didn’t do, and see how the roster looks now with the additions – and the departures.
2020 Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency Report
Shoring up the Offensive Line
Whoever the starting quarterback is in Week 1, it currently looks to be a better offensive line than last year’s. First, they traded the apparently-disgruntled Russell Okung to the Carolina Panthers for Trai Turner – an offensive guard who’s made five straight Pro Bowls. He’s primarily played right guard, which the Chargers definitely needed help at. They then shored up the other “right” position by bringing in tackle Bryan Bulaga.
With Mike Pouncey returning at center, the biggest question mark is who is going to be playing at left tackle. The options would seem to be Trent Scott and Trey Pipkins – and right now, Pipkins seems more likely. Of course, they could move Bulaga to left tackle (he’s played there before). But then they’d have the same question at right tackle all over again.
Still, with the additions of Turner and Bulaga and the return of Pouncey, they look to be in better shape than before when it was just Okung and Pouncey – and both spent much of the season injured.
Changes to the Secondary
The biggest splash signing for the team was bringing in former Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. While the secondary was already pretty good thanks to the safeties, there had still been a couple of questions at cornerback – but bringing in Harris clears up a lot of that.
What’s interesting, however, is that Harris will apparently be taking Desmond King’s spot as the slot/nickel corner – and King will be moving to safety. As for the cornerback spot opposite Casey Hayward, the team placed a second-round tender on restricted free agent Michael Davis.
It’s still an interesting move for King. Because even though they let Adrian Phillips walk (and this is perhaps why), they still have Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, and Rayshawn Jenkins already at safety. James is one of the star players and Adderley was originally expected to be a starter as well. Someone is going to be seeing less time than they may have expected – and it won’t be James.
Stacking the Defensive Line Even Further
One may have already fought the Chargers had plenty of good options at defensive end and tackle. Apparently. the team disagreed, because they brought in defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who’s coming off a three-sack season. Assuming Jerry Tillery starts living up to his first-round billing, that could make for a terrifying defensive line across the board, with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram already there at pass-rusher.
The Quarterback Situation
The Chargers were one of two teams that pursued Tom Brady when he left the New England Patriots, but he ended up going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers instead. After that, the Chargers announced they didn’t intend to pursue any more quarterbacks in free agency. That would presumably mean that the starter will be either Tyrod Taylor or whoever they take in the Draft (widely predicted to be Justin Herbert).
That said, there is still an outside chance they may go after Cam Newton now that he’s been released. That probably wasn’t an expected outcome originally, given the Panthers looked more likely to trade him. Newton would be a big question mark given his recent injury problems, and it’s very possible he may not be the same anymore. But he’s still got a good ceiling and certainly more upside than Taylor. It’s certainly odd regardless that at this point quarterback is the biggest question mark on a team that is pretty well set at most of the other positions.
The Chargers did place the franchise tag on Hunter Henry, meaning they’re still set at tight end for at least one more year. They also locked up Austin Ekeler after letting Melvin Gordon walk. They also let Travis Benjamin walk, meaning there is no clear #3 receiver on the team right now. That may be something the Chargers still try to fix. There aren’t many options left, but Demaryius Thomas, Taylor Gabriel, and Ted Ginn are all still available. There’s also former XFL star Cam Phillips. Or maybe they’ll try Dontrelle Inman again. Or maybe they plan to draft somebody. But it just seems unlikely they would go forward with Andre Patton or Jason Moore in the role, especially given how poorly Patton played last year.
They also signed linebacker Nick Vigil, who was a bright spot for the Cincinnati Bengals defense last year. This is likely to be their replacement for Thomas Davis, whom they cut not too long before along with Brandon Mebane.
Last Word on Chargers Free Agency
The Chargers made some good moves this off-season. The secondary, defensive line, and offensive line all look better. The switch between Davis and Vigil at linebacker could prove to pay off as well. And they locked up (or franchise tagged) their two biggest weapons that were free agents (Ekeler and Henry).
The biggest headscratchers may be the moves they didn’t make (so far). There’s still a big question mark at the quarterback position, even if that may be partially solved with the Draft. And there’s still a massive drop-off on the wide receiver depth chart after Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Fans have to feel good about a lot of the moves that were made. But there’s still a couple of roster questions to be answered yet.
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