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Los Angeles Chargers Offseason Preview: Wide Receivers

Los Angeles Chargers Offseason: Here's a preview of the Chargers wide receiver situation going into the offseason.
Chargers Offseason

The Los Angeles Chargers have one of the better starting duos in the league and a promising WR3 to go with it. However, depth remains a concern – and so does the lack of speed on the corps, which hurt the offense’s ability to be vertical in 2022 (and thus did not take full advantage of Justin Herbert’s talents). The Chargers will head into the offseason with a question or two to sort out.

2023 Los Angeles Chargers Offseason Preview: Wide Receivers

On the Roster: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer

These are the three core receivers of the group. All three of them are quite talented; Keenan Allen is one of the better route-runners in the league, Mike Williams is a jump-ball specialist, and Josh Palmer is something of a discount Allen with less ability to get separation. There is one problem here: none of them are particularly fast, and two of them aren’t good at consistently getting separation (though Williams can at least neutralize that with his size). If this is going to be your core group, you need someone with a little more speed to round out the talent – which in 2020, 2021, and at the very beginning of 2022, they did have (more on that later).

The other issue is that two of these receivers – Allen and Williams – are both getting paid about $20 million a year, taking up a notable portion of the salary cap. They’re not necessarily undeserving. However, the start of the Chargers off-season has seen trade rumors pop up concerning Allen, mostly because of the cap issues and him being in his 30’s now. This would probably only be a good idea if they could get a strong return for him, because Allen is Herbert’s security blanket at wide receiver – and contrary to popular belief, he hasn’t lost a step yet. Had he not been injured, he would almost certainly have gotten 100+ receptions and 1,000+ yards again. I get wanting to free up cap space and make the offense more vertical, but this may not be the best solution. Allen and Williams are still a great duo and the team should stick with them if they can.

Free Agents: DeAndre Carter, Jalen Guyton (Restricted), Michael Bandy (Exclusive-Rights)

DeAndre Carter was the team’s return man, and also WR4 for most of the season. He showed flashes as a receiver, but he didn’t get separation consistently enough either to warrant keeping that role. However, if the Chargers could bring him back on the cheap, keeping him as the return man would be helpful, as there’s not anyone else currently on the roster that’s an easy replacement.

Restricted free agent Jalen Guyton was the team’s primary speed option for the last three years, and the original WR4 in 2022 before he was lost for the season in Week 3. That said, he was barely getting used even in that role in 2022 before he got injured; if the team brought him back, they would have to find a way to work him into the rotation more – even if that means Palmer losing snaps. Bringing back Guyton would probably be the easiest solution to the Chargers’ speed issues at receiver, assuming he doesn’t get injured again.

Michael Bandy was an intriguing prospect in the preseason, but that did not translate to the regular season when he got opportunities. He might be worth bringing back to keep on the practice squad, but he’s not worth a spot on the 53-man roster at this point.

The Outside Options

Paying two of your receivers $20 million a year each does have the side effect of limiting your options in free agency. At any rate, the only interest the Chargers would have in pursuing anything in free agency at receiver would be if they’re looking for a new speedy option (and/or a new return man – could potentially be both). And they would probably only sign somebody if they could get them on the cheaper side; possible candidates there include Darius Slayton or Mecole Hardman, just to name a couple.

The Chargers could just as easily choose to draft another receiver this offseason – possibly even as high as the first round, with someone like Zay Flowers or Jalin Hyatt – and just target someone with a little more speed and then jettison either Allen or Williams in two or three years instead.

To reiterate – the Chargers have a great starting duo at wide receiver. Palmer may not be the ideal WR3 for this team in terms of his skill set, but that’s not his fault – he’s talented in his own right. The only missing thing from this offense is speed – speed with separation, to be specific. Of course, a less vanilla/predictable offensive coordinator might be able to make the best out of the receiver corps regardless. Still, getting someone who can more easily take the top off defenses would be ideal for Herbert’s talents, and can only help.

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