San Diego Chargers: What's left in free agency?

Gregory Shamus

The San Diego Chargers have limited cap space and there aren't a ton of free agents that are still available. Is there a deal out there to be made?

Here's what I said last night:

Here's where the San Diego Chargers are, currently. They need a starting Nose Tackle (probably, unless they absolutely love Lawrence Guy and Sean Lissemore) and a #1 CB, as well as a #2 WR (because even if Malcom Floyd comes back you can't guarantee he'll stay healthy). They also might need a FB, if they even want one.

I should probably add that David Johnson, a TE the team signed a few days ago, has some experience playing Fullback. It's not often that a team tries to change a player's position once he's reached the NFL, but when it happens it is usually at the FB position.

With that in mind, let us pretend that the team is not interested in looking for a free agent FB. Do they have enough money to go get one more guy for one of the other spots? Maybe.

That could very well just be extra cap space for a rainy day down the line. Freeney underperformed his contract and isn't as needed as he was last year. Faced with a "restructure or release" decision, it would make sense for him to take a pay cut.

Going off of Max's numbers from yesterday, where the Chargers had about $3 million in cap space to play with, you can probably assume the team now has about $4 million and could always restructure or release Jeromey Clary if they need more

So, let's look around to see what is still out there.

Wide Receiver

The upcoming NFL Draft is deep in WRs, which is good, because just about the only available WR left that could play as the team's #2 WR with any sort of success is Emmanuel Sanders.

I wouldn't be totally against Lance Moore, but that would make our WR corps. awfully small in stature, which is a bigger issue when Philip Rivers has shown to typically perform better with taller targets.

Miles Austin would be an intriguing option if he could ever figure out how to get his hamstrings healthy again, but that is a big if.

Not a lot to get excited about from this group.

Cornerback

A lot of CBs have been signed this offseason, and there are still a lot left.

The Broncos signed CB Aqib Talib to a 6-year deal, which put means Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is free to sign wherever he likes. His first-year cap hit will probably be somewhere in the vicinity of $5 million, meaning he's probably out of San Diego's price range.

I wouldn't mind 33-year-old Asante Samuel (on a 1 or 2-year deal), because he's been playing at a high level for a decade and is one of the better "zone coverage" CBs the league has ever seen. He may not be able to lock down Demaryius Thomas for the whole game, but Samuel has made a living off of fooling QBs into throwing into his zone the second he's ready to pounce to create a turnover. The 4-time Pro Bowler has 51 career interceptions and might be a perfect short-term solution.

29-year old Antonio Cromartie is out there after being released by the Jets. He was traded the first time because A.J. Smith didn't want to pay him big bucks and because he was blocking a starting spot for Antoine Cason, although many in San Diego think that his work ethic was a problem. He's ill-suited for this defense, playing much better man coverage than zone, but he would be the best CB on the team as soon as he inked his deal and that's worth something.

33-year old Rashean Mathis is sort of a cross between Samuel and Cromartie. I've always known him to be a good man-coverage guy, but he appears to score well playing zone as well. Despite his age, he has a solid season of starting for the Detroit Lions last season.

32-year old Carlos Rodgers was cut by the Niners after a less-than-stellar campaign in 2013. At one point, he was a "shutdown corner", but now he survives on veteran savvy. Could have a good year or two left in the right system.

That's basically what you have. A bunch of ex-#1 CBs that probably have one or two years left where they're not quite finished but not the same player they once were.

Nose Tackle

Terrence Cody is the only real option here, and he's not really that. Cody is likely looking for a short-term "prove it" deal so that he can try and live up to his billing as a 2nd round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. My assumption is that, if Cody was going to land in San Diego, it would've happened by now. Jarret Johnson would've told the team that Cody is better than his stat line looks and he would've gotten his shot.

Aubrayo Franklin is included on this list just because he was very good for the Chargers in 2012. He'll be 34 by time the 2014 season starts and he had a hard time staying healthy two years ago. I don't see him returning.

Ryan Pickett is a slightly older Aubrayo Franklin.

(It's worth noting that, while Vince Wilfork has asked the Patriots to release him, they haven't yet. Sorry, Donald Butler.)

Keep on walking.

Action Plan

If I'm Tommy Telesco, here's what my plan of action looks like for free agency/NFL Draft:

  1. Sign aging CB to be stop-gap starter (Mathis and Samuel lead my list)
  2. Put "Louis Nix" at the top of my draft board. If he's not available, grab the best CB or WR available.
  3. If Nix is not a Charger, ensure you get Ra'Shede Hageman in the 2nd round.
  4. Use the 3rd rounder on Kyle Van Noy if available, otherwise rounds 3-7 should be used to bolster secondary, WRs, offensive and defensive lines, and LBs.

If all goes according to plan, here is what you have in Week 1 at positions that are now labeled as "weakness":

  • Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal, (rookie), Vincent Brown
  • Cornerback: Rashean Mathis/Asante Samuel, Shareece Wright, Steve Williams, Richard Marshall, Brandon Ghee, (rookie or Marcus Cromartie)
  • Nose Tackle: Louis Nix, Sean Lissemore, Lawrence Guy, (Kwame Geathers/Byron Jerideau)

Seems solid, right? Floyd and Ladarius Green make the WR less of an issue, and the secondary should be less of a big deal because there's so much depth there now. Just need someone that can handle the #1 CB spot, and there are a few options out there for that.

The key to everything, much as it was last season and much as it is for every team that runs a 3-4 base defense, is the Nose Tackle position.

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