The initial rush of the 2022 NFL free agency period appears to be over, and it’s been a wild one so far – one that saw the AFC West particularly get ridiculously stacked, to the point where all four teams making the playoffs feels within the realm of possibility. The Los Angeles Chargers, for their part, took advantage of starting out with some of the most cap space in the league and were unexpectedly aggressive to fill the remaining holes in the roster. Let’s take a look at the Chargers free agency moves thus far – what they did and didn’t do, the signings, the allowed departures, the big trade, and how the roster looks now.
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Thoughts on the 2022 Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency Moves (So Far)
Bolstering the Defense
While the defense as a whole had some room for improvement, the glaring issue was the run defense, which ranked among the bottom five in the league. And while that was addressed, the Chargers went all-out and decided to bolster the defense with additional star talent. That started with the blockbuster trade for pass-rusher Khalil Mack. Between Mack and Joey Bosa, they’re in the running for the best pass-rusher duo in the league.
They also went out and signed the top cornerback on the free agent market in J.C. Jackson, who has pulled in 17 interceptions over the last two years and went All-Pro in 2021, and yet was still allowed to walk by the New England Patriots. While Michael Davis was doing acceptably as the top cornerback on the team, putting Jackson in that spot is a big improvement and gives the Chargers a stronger starting lineup at cornerback between Jackson, Davis, and Asante Samuel Jr.
These huge acquisitions at positions that were not even an urgent need show the Chargers are all-in on trying to win now, especially while Justin Herbert’s still on his rookie contract.
Retooling the Defensive Line
As mentioned earlier, the run defense was one of the top priorities that needed addressing, and the Chargers did indeed retool their defensive line. In fact, there will be a completely new starting lineup there, given that even Justin Jones – the lone bright spot on the defensive line – was allowed to walk.
The Chargers signed Austin Johnson from the New York Giants and Sebastian Joseph-Day from the Los Angeles Rams. Both have been noted for their ability to stop the run, which is exactly what the Chargers needed; also, Joseph-Day will be reuniting with his former defensive coordinator in Brandon Staley. It’s not clear who the third starter would be, but it could be Christian Covington – who they re-signed – or Breiden Fehoko or Jerry Tillery in the final year of his rookie deal. Covington seems like the best option among that bunch right now, though the Chargers signing one more cheap lineman to fill out the lineup cannot be ruled either. Regardless, Joseph-Day and Johnson alone will make this an improved defensive line over last year.
Where’s the Right Tackle?
The second biggest priority going into free agency appeared to be the right tackle position. Bryan Bulaga had been unable to stay healthy the last two years and was going to carry a bit of a cap hit with him if he was kept – and so he ultimately was cut. His backup Storm Norton was disastrous last year, and though the Chargers tendered him (he was a restricted free agent), it seems near impossible that he would be the starter again. And yet, the Chargers have not signed a new right tackle in free agency so far.
There is still time, of course; though most of the good options whose contracts had expired are gone, Daryl Williams and Billy Turner are available, who were both cut last week and would be improvements. It’s also possible that the Chargers may be planning to target somebody in the draft (they have the 17th overall pick). And a further possibility is that Matt Feiler gets moved to that position, as he played right tackle initially for years before switching to guard. That would leave the left guard position open, but that would be a little easier to fill. Still, it seems that it would make more sense to snatch somebody up in free agency while they can, fill the right tackle spot and keep Feiler where he is and has been doing well as a run-blocker.
Other New Additions
The Chargers have made a few other new additions in free agency thus far. One is Gerald Everett, who will be the new starting tight end. He was not one of the top options available as his career-high in receiving yardage is only 478, but in fairness, his ceiling has been lowered by either having to share targets at tight end or just not being in an offense that relied on tight ends much. He does have upside and if he can avoid the miscommunication issues with Herbert that Jared Cook had, he will almost certainly be an improvement.
Elsewhere, they made some switches at special teams. They signed All-Pro long snapper Josh Harris from the Atlanta Falcons while letting Matt Overton walk, and signed punter JK Scott presumably to replace Ty Long.
Odds and Ends
Most of the other players who have been re-signed or allowed to walk were depth pieces. Kicker Dustin Hopkins is an exception to that as the Chargers locked him down with a three-year deal. They also brought back backup quarterback Chase Daniel and tendered restricted free agents Donald Parham, Jalen Guyton, and Storm Norton. Parham and Guyton are both nice depth pieces among the Chargers pass-catchers, so they were worth keeping around.
Elsewhere, starter Uchenna Nwosu was not re-signed and joined the Seattle Seahawks – a foregone conclusion after the Mack trade. However, his backup Kyler Fackrell left as well, leaving Chris Rumph as the only obvious backup to Bosa and Mack right now.
Surprisingly, Kyzir White has not been re-signed yet despite being a critical part of the linebacker corps last year – but neither has he gotten a new team. We should also expect to see Oday Aboushi getting re-signed hopefully soon as he did fine at right guard last year before getting injured, and he will come cheap.
The Chargers have had an active free agency period so far, and have made the defense much more dangerous. The primary question mark right now is the right tackle position, but that will surely be handled in due time. Regardless, the Chargers are doing their part to keep the pace in an increasingly competitive AFC West and AFC in general.
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