The beginning of free agency is about a month out, and the Los Angeles Chargers do have some work to do. Although they were only a game away from the playoffs and they looked much improved, there are still a few areas that need to be bolstered to help increase their chances of not missing out again. The Chargers have gotten more aggressive in the last couple of years in free agency, and this should be a good year to do so again since they currently have the second-most cap space in the league at $57.5 million. That number will likely decrease before March 16 after they re-sign some of the players in their long list of their own players whose contracts have expired, but they’re still in a good spot to get the guys they might want.
So without further ado, 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 return to their current teams.
2022 Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency: Potential Players to Sign
D.J. Jones, Defensive Tackle
The biggest area of deficiency for the Chargers in 2021 was the run defense. For most of the season, they were utterly inept and in last place in the league in that category for most of the year (they finished third-worst). The whole defensive line needs a bit of an overhaul, and Justin Jones is the only starter that should for sure be brought back. When looking for free agents defensive tackles that can help stop the run, D.J. Jones of the San Francisco 49ers is one such name that comes to mind. The whole 49ers defensive line did well, but Jones is a name that flew slightly under the radar while still being an important contributor. He finished with 56 combined tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. Unless the 49ers go all-in on him to retain Jones, he should not be overly expensive to acquire compared to some other linemen on the market.
Honorable Mention: B.J. Hill
Akiem Hicks or Calais Campbell, Defensive End
This one is a little tricky. Chargers fans have been clamoring for Akiem Hicks lately (who could play at defensive tackle or end – he only played the former in 2021), and on a skill level, that’s understandable given his ability. He would certainly help solve the run-stopping problems of the Chargers. The concern is his injury history; two of his last three seasons have seen him fail to play double-digit games. The question is if the Chargers are willing to take that chance. They’ve seen a couple of injury-prone free agent signings fall flat in recent years.
Also of relevance is that for the Chargers purposes, it’s not the worst idea to find a defensive end that is already playing in a 3-4 defense like the Chargers are running, especially given that the Chargers are already in decent shape at edge rusher. If we look at current 3-4 defensive ends, one of the better names available is Calais Campbell (who announced he is not retiring). He would definitely be a veteran option at 35 years old, but he is still playing at a high level. It ultimately comes down to what the Chargers are looking for to help fill out the defensive end spot Justin Jones.
Morgan Moses, Right Tackle
There’s a good chance that Bryan Bulaga is going to end up getting cut after playing only 11 games in the last two seasons and being otherwise a drag on their cap being owed $14 million this year (third-most on the team), whereas there would only be $3 million dead cap if they released him. And Bulaga’s backup in 2021, Storm Norton, was a disaster. In all likelihood, the Chargers will be looking to the future at right tackle. Morgan Moses is arguably the top option available in free agency. He’s not elite, but he’s had a generally solid career and has not missed any games since his rookie year in 2014 – something that should stand out. He also only allowed four sacks last year on what was otherwise a porous New York Jets offensive line.
Honorable Mention: Trent Brown
Bryce Callahan, Slot Cornerback
Chris Harris Jr is a free agent this off-season, and he seems to be past his prime. Given that, the Chargers should probably look for a new slot cornerback – something that is important to Brandon Staley’s defensive scheme. Look for Bryce Callahan to be a top candidate to be signed; he has been a tad injury-prone, but he is likely the best option available with the skillset they would be looking for. He has played at least 10 games the last two years, and also has familiarity with Staley during his tenures with both the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. The risky part is the injury history, but there are not a lot of other proven options for the slot cornerback position, and the history with Staley will likely play a role.
Honorable Mention: K’Waun Williams
Mike Gesicki or David Njoku, Tight End
Expect the Chargers to be looking for a new tight end this off-season after Jared Cook had a bit of a shaky year – and was never going to be the long-term answer anyway. Justin Herbert also seems to like throwing to tight ends, so it would be smart for the Chargers to get a more reliable and younger option. Fortunately for the Chargers, this is shaping up to be a strong free agency year at tight end, so they will have plenty of options to choose from. If they wanted to make a splash signing, Mike Gesicki would be one of the better options available. He’s had 700+ yards each of the last two seasons, and at 6’6”, he definitely has the height to make plays. The drawback would be the cost, as he would likely cost at least $10 million a year – and given that they hope to re-sign Mike Williams and have the right tackle position and a couple of defensive positions to address, that may not be quite in the budget even with their cap space.
One name that has been popping up as a possibility among the cheaper options is David Njoku, who has admittedly been a little wasted with the Cleveland Browns – but when he’s actually been given opportunities, he has generally done well. He would qualify as a somewhat risky but low-cost option for the Chargers at tight end with some strong upside. But there are frankly a lot of good options that could fit well with Herbert (such that the tight end discussion really deserves its own stand-alone article). It just depends on how much they’re willing to spend.
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