The NFL playoffs are still currently ongoing, but the 2021 season is long over for the Los Angeles Chargers, and thus it is time to begin thinking about the off-season and looking ahead. The first order of business for the Chargers is free agency, coming in early March. Like other teams, the Chargers have decisions to make about who to keep (or try to keep, anyway) and who to let walk. For this piece, we will discuss players that they should let walk in free agency.
2022 Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency: Players To Move On From
Jared Cook was a solid one-year pickup by the Chargers in the off-season last year at tight end after Hunter Henry departed. He did not have a bad season by any means, having 48 catches for 564 yards and four touchdowns on a team that was not particularly reliant on the tight end position. However, he and Justin Herbert did not always have the best chemistry; a few of Herbert’s interceptions this year happened solely because he and Cook were not on the same page – something that cannot really be said of any of his other pass-catchers from last year. Cook had a few good games, but the mistakes hurt his stock.
Cook was probably never a long-term plan for the Chargers at tight end anyway. The question would be who would be the starting tight end in his place. That could be Tre McKitty, or Donald Parham (who is also a free agent), or they could bring in someone else in free agency. Regardless, Cook returning does not feel overly likely.
Chris Harris Jr
Cornerback Chris Harris is one of those veterans who had a quite solid career and seemed good at first with his new team (the Chargers), but he unfortunately appears to be out of his prime, as he is starting to get burned more often by receivers that he would have shut down five years ago. He was still easily the best slot corner available the Chargers had in 2021, but it may be time to find someone new for that position.
That slot corner position has been important under both this and the previous Chargers defensive schemes, and getting someone who can more consistently keep pass-catchers under wraps should be something the Chargers look at this off-season since Harris’s replacement is likely not currently on the team.
One could do a lot worse than Linval Joseph at defensive/nose tackle, but this ultimately comes down to a simple fact: the Chargers defensive line needs some overhaul badly this off-season. Justin Jones is about the only one whose contract is up that should be returning. They simply played too poorly as a unit for there not to be some changes made.
Joseph is another aging veteran as well, and while he may not be as out of his prime as Harris or Cook, the Chargers ought to be looking to add someone that is still in their prime.
Linebacker Kyler Fackrell was a good pick-up last off-season at a time when it was not entirely clear – particularly under the new defensive scheme – who was going to be the starting pass-rusher opposite Joey Bosa. That ended up being Uchenna Nwosu, who is also a free agent this year and will hopefully be brought back. Fackrell was a solid depth piece this year, but between Nwosu (assuming he returns) and Chris Rumph heading into his second year, there is not much need to bring back Fackrell – not in an off-season when you have 20 free agents to sort through and other areas on the defense that need more attention anyway.
Most of the players listed here are veterans who are simply past their prime – or are nearly there. There are other players that could probably be parted with, such as Storm Norton (who was only not listed because he was never supposed to be a starter in 2021 if not for Bryan Bulaga getting hurt) and Oday Aboushi (if they can find a better right guard in free agency, they should probably take them). Ideally, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers will solidify the weaker parts in free agency with players that are both proven and still have some years ahead of them.
Embed from Getty Images