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San Diego Chargers Free Agency: Outside Linebackers

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Taking a look at how the San Diego Chargers could rebuild their diminished group of pass-rushers through free agency this offseason.

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I was wrong. Tom Telesco was right. Jeremiah Attaochu was the pick.

A year ago, I thought the San Diego Chargers had bigger needs than another OLB that wouldn't see much of the field his rookie season. A year ago, I may have been right. However, right now, this team needs OLBs.

Father Time is Undefeated

Dwight Freeney is a 34 year old free agent that is considering retirement (he'll be 35 by time free agency begins), and probably should. After a strong start to the season, Freeney's performance got less impactful as the season went on. It didn't help that he was forced to start for much of the season, but I don't think he really wants to stick around as a guy that can't start and can only play 20 snaps a game.

Jarret Johnson is 33 years old, but has a year left on his deal (he'll be 34 by time next season starts). Still, we've heard reports that he is also contemplating retirement this offseason. He's a bit of a dinosaur, in that he's a 3-4 OLB that has very little pass-rushing skill, but still a very effective run-stopper.

Worst-Case Scenario

Let's imagine, for a second, that Freeney doesn't re-sign and Jarret Johnson decides to retire. That would leave the Chargers with...

  • Melvin Ingram
  • Jerry Attaochu
  • Cordarro Law
  • Tourek Williams
  • Reggie Walker

That's not much depth at arguably the most important position on the defense. It gets even scarier when you think about the injury issues that have plagued Ingram and Attaochu throughout their careers.

Ideally, the team would want to add two OLBs this offseason that would be ready to play a lot of snaps next season.

What's Available?

Plenty! Especially in terms of big-name, big-play guys that are entering into the peak of their career. This free agent class has pass-rushers for days....

  • Brian Orakpo (28)
  • Jason Worilds (26)
  • Justin Houston (26)
  • Pernell McPhee (26)
  • Brandon Graham (26)
  • Jabaal Sheard (25)
  • Arthur Moats (26)

Seven guys that were great 3-4 OLBs last season. Seven! And every single one of them would likely be the best pass-rusher on the Chargers next season if Tom Telesco signed them.

According to Pro Football Focus, here are how the guys above ranked among 3-4 OLBs this past season....

  • #1 Justin Houston
  • #2 Pernell McPhee
  • #3 Brandon Graham
  • #11 Jason Worilds
  • #16 Jabaal Sheard
  • #17 Arthur Moats
  • #22 Brian Orakpo

For comparison's sake, the Chargers OLBs ranked #23 (Freeney), #32 (Johnson), and #36 (Ingram).

Two-Pronged Attacked

There are going to be those of you, in the comments, that say "Well, I think they should draft (random college football pass-rusher that might be entering the NFL Draft)."

That's fine. This is an article about free agency, which comes before the NFL Draft, so you're being impatient and rude....but it's fine. OLB is one spot that is so important, and the team needs so much depth (did I mention that Ingram is entering a contract year?), that I will advocate the team using a draft pick on one even after they sign a free agent OLB.

It's debatable on whether the team needs to sign a OLB in addition to drafting one, but it's what I believe they should do. If I were Telesco, I would work my way down the list of seven guys above and hope that I can land one of them before I even start thinking about which OLB I may want to grab in the middle rounds of the Draft. Also, I would drive a convertible and sleep on a water bed.