Free agency is essentially just around the corner, and while the Los Angeles Chargers have a lot of good pieces in place, there’s still work to be done and depth to be filled – and some of that should be done during free agency, of course. While the Chargers are not known historically for being heavy spenders in free agency, they bucked that trend a little last off-season, signing their two biggest stars at the time to long-term deals, and making some good moves in free agency. Hopefully that more aggressive stance will carry over to this off-season as well.
Currently, the Chargers have 23.8 million in cap space. That is the ninth most in the NFL, which gives them a nice amount of room to work with. Here are some possible candidates the Chargers could sign in free agency this off-season. This list will not include players that are heavily expected or virtually guaranteed to re-sign with their current teams.
Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency: Potential Candidates for Signing
Alejandro Villanueva, Offensive Tackle
Let’s start with the offensive line because that’s the biggest area that needs help. They do not have a dependable starter at left tackle and that needs to be fixed. There’s more than one offensive line position that needs addressing here, and some of them could also be handled in the Draft, including with their first-round pick. But Villanueva would be worth chasing after. He’s been a strong starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers for some time, but multiple stars seem to be on the way out there. And on the plus side for the Chargers, he’d have some familiarity in Los Angeles with the former Steelers offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett being on the staff.
Honorable Mention: Taylor Moton
Joe Thuney, Offensive Guard
Joe Thuney is another offensive lineman that doesn’t seem to be currently expected to return to his former team. With that in mind, the Chargers should pursue him as well. He’s been a good part of the New England Patriots line for the latter half of the decade. The Chargers aren’t quite in as severe need of a left guard as they are in need of a left tackle, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Dan Feeney could end up returning to left guard if they acquire a new center and that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but going after someone better in free agency or the draft would be preferable.
Honorable Mention: Denzelle Good
Corey Linsley, Center
Mike Pouncey retired this off-season, so the Chargers need to shop for a new center as well. Right now, the hottest option that might be available to them is Corey Linsley, coming off an All-Pro season with the Green Bay Packers. He’s at a sweet spot right now age-wise where he’s not a grizzled veteran but he’s not fresh off a rookie deal either. That would be another great pickup for the Chargers if they could squeeze it, though there are multiple other experienced centers to choose from this off-season.
Honorable Mention: Austin Reiter
Shelby Harris, Defensive End
It does not seem particularly likely at this point that Melvin Ingram is coming back. With that in mind, the Chargers will need a new defensive end opposite Joey Bosa. In theory, they could stick with Uchenna Nwosu, who filled in a bit when Ingram was injured despite normally being a linebacker. However, one wrinkle here is that under Brandon Staley, the Chargers are likely to switch to a base 3-4 defense – and so Nwosu may be pass-rushing from the backfield as opposed to on the line of scrimmage. Harris has expressed interest in returning to the Denver Broncos, but this would be a good fit for both sides as Staley has worked with him before and Harris has already been playing in the 3-4 defense with Denver.
Honorable Mention: Everson Griffen
Troy Hill, Cornerback
Michael Davis is a free agent, and though he probably wouldn’t be expensive to keep, there’s no guarantee he will be back. More alarmingly, Casey Hayward regressed heavily in 2020 and could be a overlooked potential cut candidate. Either way, a new starter may be needed. Troy Hill is a good option that likely wouldn’t be too expensive, as he had a pretty good season that was somewhat overlooked. Furthermore, he was on Staley’s #1 defense last year. Like with Harris, a reunion could make a lot of sense here.
Honorable Mention: Mike Hilton
Jonnu Smith, Tight End
This particular entry assumes that Hunter Henry doesn’t return. While both he and the Chargers would like to agree to terms, he may end up being more expensive than they’d like, especially given his injury history. One potential replacement that wouldn’t be much of a downgrade and that would cost less would be Jonnu Smith. Don’t let his yardage numbers fool you; he’s quite a capable and versatile tight end that’s been arguably underused with the Tennessee Titans, and could also work as the safety valve (especially in the red zone) as would be expected of him. Another possibility that’s been quietly rumbling is that they could draft Kyle Pitts if he slips to No. 13, which – if the hype is correct – could actually be an upgrade.
Honorable Mention: Gerald Everett
It’s difficult to see a scenario where Tyrod Taylor stays with the Chargers after everything that’s happened; plus, he was very much an Anthony Lynn product and it’s difficult to see him fitting into the new regime. Thus, the Chargers may need a good backup. In theory, they could go with Easton Stick, but he’s never been able to get higher than third on the depth chart – not the best sign. Some free agent quarterbacks that would likely be able to run the same offense as Justin Herbert if anything happened to him include Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, or Mitchell Trubisky if they don’t get starting jobs. Joe Flacco, while aging, might also be a better fit than one would think as a backup to Herbert due to his own rocket arm.
One other thing that might be on the agenda in free agency is bringing in a new pass-rushing linebacker, with the likely switch to a 3-4 defense. They’ve already got some promising young linebackers, so this probably shouldn’t be a priority. However, should they choose to go after one, some options could include Justin Houston or bringing back Jeremiah Attaochu (another Staley familiarity option there).
Finally, there may still be a need for an additional running back. Austin Ekeler is not a three-down back, Justin Jackson is good but can’t stay healthy, and Joshua Kelley is not looking promising right now. Some solid potential change-of-pace options that could play the Latavius Murray role alongside Ekeler could include Jamaal Williams or Matt Breida.
The offensive line should be the top priority here in free agency – hence why three of the six main entries were geared in that direction. But there are some things on the defensive side of the ball that will need to be addressed too, especially with the schematic switch. Some of the things listed here could end up not being addressed until the Draft – such as tight end – and that would probably work out fine. Regardless, this is another off-season where more aggressiveness from Tom Telesco may be critical in order to help Herbert succeed and for this team to return to the playoffs.
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