The initial rush of the 2021 NFL free agency period seems to be over, and it’s been a bit of a strange one given the reduced salary cap and how that’s affecting contracts and team decisions. The Los Angeles Chargers were not in as big a bind as most, being in the upper half of teams with the most cap space. Ironically, the organization’s tendency to be cheap may actually be paying off for once. This allowed the Chargers to make at least one splash play in free agency; four total new players have been signed, and more may yet come. 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.
2021 Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency Report
Shoring up the Offensive Line (Again)
This feels like an all-too-common theme with the Chargers. Too often, there are problems with the offensive line. Going into free agency, they’d lost center Mike Pouncey to retirement, and right guard Trai Turner had become a cap casualty after spending most of last year injured. That just left one clear-cut starter – the right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
Enter easily the biggest Chargers signing so far (and it probably won’t be topped) – the signing of center Corey Linsley, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. He’d been a reliable center for the Packers for some time and went First-Team All-Pro last year. As a result, the Chargers gave him a big five-year deal that made him the highest-paid center in the league – an unusual kind of thing for the Chargers to do, but perhaps after this and giving Joey Bosa and Keenan Allen their big contracts last year, maybe times are changing – just a little.
The Chargers also added offensive guard Matt Feiler from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He doesn’t have as grand a resume, but he should be a fine addition to the starting lineup. A nice advantage with him is he can play at multiple positions, including on either side of the line. Feiler will likely be either at left or right guard. Oday Aboushi was also signed, and while – given his history – he would normally probably just be a depth piece, he could also be in the running for the right guard spot.
They did lose some depth to other teams, namely Dan Feeney. And more importantly, they still have no clear starter at left tackle. That may be yet addressed in the next week or so.
Change at Tight End
We have already covered three out of the four new signings so far. The final one was necessitated by Hunter Henry signing with the New England Patriots (who somehow got both of the top two tight ends on the market). The Chargers, in response, brought Jared Cook in on a one-year deal.
This was a fairly good move. Cook is a little inconsistent at times, but he usually thrives when he has a good quarterback throwing to him (namely, he’s had Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees in the last five years). With this move, the Chargers have a solid veteran security blanket presence at tight end at least for one year – and in the meantime, they can either draft a tight end or continue to develop Donald Parham – or both.
The Chargers haven’t done a ton of re-signings so far, but the biggest one was cornerback Michael Davis. After cutting Casey Hayward (which was still a necessary move), bringing back Davis was critical, especially since they haven’t brought in a new cornerback in free agency (there’s still time, though). There may still be one hole at corner unless they have Chris Harris play outside instead of in the slot, but that’s better than two spots to fill. They also re-signed depth piece Brandon Facyson.
The Chargers also brought back kicker Michael Badgley – a bit of a head-scratching decision, given how unreliable he’s been on kicks from 45+. However, they did bring in some competition a couple of weeks ago in Tristan Vizcaino, a perennial practice squad man. They also brought back punter Ty Long (an exclusive rights free agent).
Players Moving On
Hunter Henry is obviously the biggest name to join a new team, but he was replaced fairly quickly. The biggest unfilled gap among departing players now resides at free safety, because Rayshawn Jenkins left to join the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s unclear what’s going to happen there now, but Nasir Adderley didn’t look very promising last year. Problem is, there may be higher priorities.
Namely, the Chargers now need to settle some things with their linebacker corps. Both Denzel Perryman and Nick Vigil departed in free agency – now there are only five on the roster. Kenneth Murray, Drue Tranquill, Kyzir White, and two depth pieces. (And Uchenna Nwosu, if they moved him back to linebacker.) This would seem to be a rather big issue, especially given that Brandon Staley is expected to run a 3-4 defense. Expect some cheaper linebacker signings to come soon, unless they plan on relying on the Draft for that (probably not wise).
Elsewhere, Isaac Rochell departed, depleting the defensive end depth a little. Tyrod Taylor departed, meaning a new backup quarterback may be on the way (unless Easton Stick gets promoted to the #2 overall quarterback spot). Melvin Ingram also looks to be on the way out, though that isn’t official.
The Chargers definitely did some good in the first few days of free agency and shored up the offensive line (again). Still need to get a left tackle, but that should be addressed soon. Didn’t overpay for Hunter Henry (whether they should’ve or not is debatable) and got a cheaper reliable veteran for a tough cap year. Some newly opened spots still need to be filled at linebacker and free safety, but that may be yet to come. But regardless of all that, the Chargers got off to a good start on their number one priority – protecting their franchise quarterback.
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