While the Chargers season won't officially be over for another month and a half, it effectively ended about three weeks ago. And, if you're anything like me, that means you've already begun dreaming about what 2016 will look like because it certainly can't get any uglier than 2015.
The Chargers will almost certainly have a new coaching staff next season. And while speculation as to just who that will be comprised of will no doubt be the source of nigh-endless content for this site, let's instead turn our attention to what the roster may look like as San Diego looks to rebuild.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Philip Rivers ($21 million)
2016 Cap Hit: $21 million
Chargers Free Agents: Kellen Clemens
Plan Going Forward: I'm not really interested in retaining Clemens but I could definitely see it happening. Brad Sorensen is on the practice squad but I don't trust him at all as the No.2 guy. A cheap veteran backup could be added and there are a number of them scheduled to be on the market such as Drew Stanton, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, and Clipboard Jesus himself. As for the draft, if an Andrew Luck caliber prospect were available I'd say take him and stick him behind No. 17 just because how important having a quarterback is (though it may not seem like it this season). However, there isn't one in the draft class and I don't agree with choosing a late round guy to backup Rivers when that draft pick should be spent elsewhere.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Melvin Gordon ($2.42 million), Danny Woodhead ($3 million), Branden Oliver ($600k), Donald Brown ($3.5 million)
Cuts: Donald Brown (-$3.5 million)
2016 Cap Hit: $6.02 million
Chargers Free Agents: None
Plan Going Forward: The Chargers are invested in Melvin Gordon and the priority of the new coaching staff has to be to figure out a way to get him going. With Rivers' age the need for a strong ground game is essential. With Donald Brown finally out of town the only addition to this group should be the best UDFA in training camp/preseason. Dreamius Smith on the practice squad is certainly a candidate.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: None
2016 Cap Hit: None
Chargers Free Agents: David Johnson
Plan Going Forward: Johnson has been utterly ineffective when called upon. It's time for this team to bring in a true fullback. John Kuhn and Mike Tolbert are the biggest names on the market while Gordon's old lead blocker in Madison, Derek Watt (JJ's brother) and Kansas State's Glenn Gronkowski (Rob's brother) are guys to watch for in the collegiate ranks.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Keenan Allen ($843k), Steve Johnson ($3.9 million),Javontee Herndon ($525k), Torrence Allen ($450k)
Cuts: Allen (-$450k), Herndon (-$525k)
2016 Cap Hit: $4.74 million
Chargers Free Agents: Malcom Floyd, Dontrelle Inman, Tyrell Williams
Plan Going Forward: I really feel bad for Inman and Herndon because it is painful to remember the human element in Sunday's game and realize that these two guys worked their entire lives to get the opportunity that had against the Chiefs and they both just blew it. Neither should be on the active roster in 2016. Williams is an exclusive rights free agent and will be brought back. Malcom Floyd is retiring and will be missed. Still, even when Floyd was healthy, the need for a speedy, deep threat receiver opposite Allen was apparent. Johnson is a solid player to have in the slot but honestly it is tempting to let him go as paying nearly $4 million to a No. 3 receiver is a bit much. The Chargers should address this need in free agency as the draft should instead focus almost exclusively on the lines. Chicago's Alshon Jeffrey would be perfect but I doubt he gets out of the Windy City. Allen's old California teammate Marvin Jones could be a nice addition. Outside of those two the market isn't great, with Cleveland's Travis Benjamin being a third option.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: None
2016 Cap Hit: You guessed it, None.
Chargers Free Agents: Antonio Gates, LaDarius Green, John Phillips, David Johnson
Plan Going Forward: All four of the Chargers tight ends are free agents in 2016 and that isn't exactly a bad thing. Both Phillips and Johnson need to go. As of this moment I think Gates retires. He hasn't been able to play to the level he's accustomed to and he's been bothered by injuries. His contract is up and I'm not sure he wants to do a one-year deal to make run with a brand new coaching staff and system. If he does want that, then by all means bring him back because I wouldn't be able to stand the sight of him in a No. 85 Patriots jersey because you-could-totally-see-Belichick-doing-that-couldn't-you? As for Green, he has again shown glimpses of what he's capable of, both good and bad. There are plays in which his obvious physical tools leave you drooling, and others where his mental lapses leave you pulling your hair out. I wouldn't be opposed to letting him test the market and attempting to better what he gets if the price is right. There are a number of decent free agents on the market such as Cleveland's Gary Barndige, Chicago's Zach Miller (as a run blocker), Indianapolis' Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: King Dunlap ($6.625 million), Tyreek Burwell ($525k)
2016 Cap Hit: $6.625 million
Chargers Free Agents: Joe Barksdale, Chris Hairston, Kenny Wiggins
Plan Going Forward: Ideally Barksdale or Hairston (or both) would be brought back on relatively cheap deals. They were great finds by Telesco and the Chargers would do well to try and keep at least one as a backup. There are a number of tackles scheduled to hit the market, including Andre Smith and Eric Winston of the Bengals, Bobby Massie with the Cardinals, Donald Penn in Oakland, Russel Okung in Seattle, among others. If the best defensive lineman are off the board when San Diego picks, Laremy Tunsil of Mississippi is not a bad consolation prize (and might be the pick no matter who's on the board). An experienced tackle in the SEC, Tunsil has the makings of a franchise left tackle. He'd immediately plug in at RT and could fill in for Dunalp if/when he gets injured.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Orlando Franklin ($7.1 million), D.J. Fluker ($3.628 million), Ben Beckwith ($526k)
Cuts: Beckwith (-$524k),
2016 Cap Hit: $10.73 million
Chargers Free Agents: Johnnie Troutman
Plan Going Forward: Franklin and Fluker have both had disappointing, injury plagued 2015 campaigns and both will be back to try and make up for it next season. Depth is needed behind both of them. What the team does in free agency and in the draft may be determined by what it elects to do at center.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Chris Watt (753k), Trevor Robinson ($875k)
2016 Cap Hit: $1.628 million
Chargers Free Agents: J.D. Walton
Plan Going Forward: The best that can be said about Robinson and Watt is that they are cheap as it turns out neither of them are the "Center of the Future". But they are nice depth pieces to have going forward. Still, that means the Chargers need two starters along the offensive line. USC's Max Tuerk is an experienced starter at the position but has missed the majority of his final college season due to injury. Wisconsin's Dan Voltz could also be a nice mid-round addition.
Players Scheduled to be on Roster: 11
2016 Cap Hit: $50.743 million
Plan Going Forward: The cupboard isn't bare, but it's far from fully stocked. The Chargers need to add a backup quarterback, a fullback, three tight ends, a deep threat receiver as well as a possible returner and a receiver that can contribute as a special teams ace a la Kassim Osgood and Seyi Ajirotutu. Dunlap, Franklin, and Fluker form 3/5 of the starting offensive line with uncertainty at the other two spots as well as who will back them up. The priority here is to build around Melvin Gordon in the run game and get Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen some help in the pass game. It's crucial that Gordon works out given what the Chargers have invested in him and just how little they may have around the young running back.