I've been taking my time getting around to this, the final installment of my own "San Diego Chargers Free Agency Preview", for a few reasons.
One, I've been busy. Two, the defensive secondary situation is complicated, but could be made awfully simple real quick. I'll try to keep this from getting too convoluted.
What's in the cupboard?
Let's start where we need to start. Let's start by looking at what the Chargers' defensive secondary looks like currently, before any free agents or signed or guys are drafted.
First, the cornerbacks...
- Jason Verrett
- Richard Crawford
- Steve Williams
- Chris Davis
- Greg Ducre
- Adrian Phillips
Who is Richard Crawford? I don't know! But he's the second-highest paid cornerback on the roster next season, as things stand now. YIKES.
Now, the Safeties...
- Eric Weddle
- Darrell Stuckey
- Jahleel Addae
I like all three of these guys. However, the loss of Marcus Gilchrist as a guy that can play at a nearly-starter level at both SS and nickel CB needs to be accounted for.
What do the Chargers need?
Well, they need a starting CB, a nickel CB (unless they believe in one on the roster) and/or a Safety with some CB experience.
Shareece Wright probably doesn't fill any of those roles, so he walks.
Marcus Gilchrist is going to get a chance to be a starting SS somewhere, and I think the Chargers would be smart to move on to Addae, so I'm assuming he's gone too.
Step 1: Automatic Flowers
Tom Telesco should be chained to a phone from the moment free agency begins until he signs Brandon Flowers. Nothing else matters until he can re-sign the team's #1 CB, and there is plenty of salary cap space to get it done.
Brandon Flowers is a slam dunk. He played great in the Chargers' system, they have money and a need, and he really doesn't have any reason for wanting to go elsewhere. If Telesco somehow bumbles this (he won't), it will be a giant stain on his career for a long time.
Step 2: Nickel CB
Nickel CBs are important, and they're much different than regular CBs. That is one of the few things that A.J. Smith (eventually) got right.
A Nickel CB needs to essentially be a blend of Cornerback, Linebacker, and Safety. He needs to add run support to the end of the line, blitz occasionally, and also provide man and zone coverage against WRs, TEs, and RBs.
These guys are not super-easy to find, and the Chargers need one. More often than not, you take a chance here in the draft and grab someone like Gilchrist that has experience playing both Safety and CB. There was some thought that Steve Williams could eventually be the team's Nickel CB, but he's been mostly awful since being drafted.
Also, if you're the Chargers, you have to find guys that don't have aspirations of starting in the league, because they will (hopefully) not breaking the starting two spots taken by Verrett and Flowers. Someone like Charles Woodson, a veteran with something left in the tank, would be ideal.
These are a little tough for me to find, because CBs are not separate from Nickel CBs on any list, but here's a group that I don't hate:
- Ike Taylor
- Alan Ball
- Perrish Cox
- Antrel Rolle
- Charles Tillman
Some of those are more realistic than others, but they're all names that would add something to the Chargers secondary and probably wouldn't cost a ton.
You may want to go with the guys that are still viable starting CBs (which likely takes Rolle out), considering Verrett and Flowers' propensity for getting injured.
Step 3: Safety
I know I always say that I won't talk about the NFL Draft until after free agency, because you never know what holes you will still have after free agency and don't want to spin your wheels in the process.
Well, the Chargers should draft a safety. They should also invite a few of the undrafted guys to camp. Here's why:
The Chargers, before free agency has actually started, spend more on their safeties than all but 4 teams in the NFL. That's because Weddle is expensive (and worth it) and Stuckey is expensive for a backup (and worth it). When Jahleel Addae runs his rookie contract out and is a starter, San Diego may end up spending more on safeties than anyone else in the league.
While the Chargers need a fourth Safety, it's also imperative that the Safety they find to fill that fourth spot is very inexpensive. The only way to really do that is draft one.
Here's what I would like to end up with for the Chargers secondary...
- CB1: Brandon Flowers
- CB2: Jason Verrett
- Nickel CB: (Veteran FA)
- CB4/CB5: Steve Williams/Chris Davis
- FS1/FS2: Eric Weddle/Darrel Stuckey
- SS1/SS2: Jahleel Addae/(Rookie)
I'll let you guys tell me in the comments which veteran, and which rookie, you'd want to fill those spots.