Los Angeles Chargers Safety Depth Still a Problem

Los Angeles Chargers Safety

The Los Angeles Chargers had a successful draft overall. They finally solved the left tackle issue that they’d let go unsolved in free agency, they added another cornerback in the second round, and added another competitor to the wide receiver corps – and that’s just the most popular picks. The Chargers did a good job of fixing up the remaining gaps in the starting lineup and added some depth to round out some of the other positions needing it.

This just leaves one position right now on the depth chart that has to be making fans nervous. Not because there are not clear starters, but because there’s so little depth beyond them – and for various reasons, that’s a problem. This would be the safety position. There are only five on the roster right now – which is surprisingly low for off-season/training camp numbers.

Los Angeles Chargers Safety Group Still Needs More Depth

The Starters

The two main starters appear to be set in place. Obviously, there’s Derwin James, who was a rookie sensation in 2018 but has spent most of the last two seasons on injured reserve. Then at free safety, the Chargers appear set to start Nasir Adderley – who struggled rather heavily in 2020. Despite that, new coach Brandon Staley seems to believe he can fix him. That may be a bit of a gamble, but Staley seems all-in on him.

Still, that leaves them with only one known playmaker at safety (James) – and right now that playmaker is struggling to stay healthy. Given all of that, one would think that the Chargers would either want to have some more proven depth behind the starters or bring in more competition among undrafted free agents to see what they could find (granted, this was not a popular safety class, so there may have been slim pickings).

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The Backups

After James and Adderley, this leaves only the three backups, only one of whom isn’t a rookie. That would be Alohi Gilman, who was a late-round pick in 2020 and apparently didn’t impress, because the Chargers were very hesitant to allow him out there – to the point where cornerback Desmond King was sent out to safety and Jahleel Addae of all people got brought back before Gilman would be allowed out there. There could certainly be some improvement in Year Two, but the apparent nervousness the Chargers had with playing him isn’t a good sign.

That leaves Mark Webb, who is a seventh-round rookie and yet still possibly the best hope currently on the roster for a decent backup. There’s also undrafted free agent Ben DeLuca. And that’s it – that’s the entire safeties lineup. And this is the 80-man roster, not the 53-man one. Unless they just feel that good about Webb, it’s almost like they’re banking completely on James not tearing up his knee again and Adderley having a big jump in Year Three. And considering the injury bug problems they often have, the Chargers should know better than most about the need for depth.

Ways To Solve This

There are a couple of ways to solve this and have a better plan in place if James gets injured again and/or Adderley flames out or gets injured himself. First, there’s bringing back one of the veterans the Chargers didn’t re-sign – which could mean bringing back Jahleel Addae again, or Jaylen Watkins. Even if such a player ended up being primarily practice squad fodder (like Watkins was last year), that’d still be more depth, and from a player who’s been around longer at that.

Then, of course, there’s bringing in one of the unsigned free agent veterans. By now these players would be cheap and wouldn’t even cut into the salary cap much. Perhaps this actually is the team’s plan and they’re just waiting for the right time (whenever that is). Nevertheless, available safety free agents include Kenny Vaccaro, Tre Boston (another former Charger), and Andrew Sendejo, among others.

It’s fine if Staley doesn’t want to add somebody else that would be inevitably competing for a starter position because he thinks he’s got his guys. But surely one would at least want some more reliable backups or even just more competition with such a small lineup at this stage in the off-season.

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