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Burn It All Down and Start Over: Defense and Special Teams

There's a whole lot of dead weight and bloated contracts to be found on the defense and special teams units of the San Diego Chargers. Time to trim the fat.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Here's part two of San Diego Chargers roster revamp. Part one left the Bolts with just 11 players and a lot of holes on offense. Depending on how you look at it, the defense is either a larger raging dumpster fire than the offense or actually has a couple of pieces of kindling worth holding onto. Now that I think of, it's probably both.

Defensive End/Tackle

Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Corey Liuget ($10 million), Darius Philon (555k), Tenny Palepoi (529k)

Cuts: Palepoi (-$525k)

2016 Cap Hit: $10.55 million

Chargers Free Agents: Kendall Reyes, Ricardo Mathews, Damion Square

Plan Going Forward: One of the NFL's least talented position groups says goodbye to five of the bodies that took the field for the Chargers in 2015 - though you wouldn't know that by watching a game or looking at the box score. I was someone hesitant to get rid of Palepoi, who flashed at times in his rookie year and was lost to injury during training camp. Then I looked at the title of this article and pulled the trigger. This group needs a major overhaul and as much flexibility and as many openings as possible. In free agency, New York Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is the headliner in free agency while the Denver Broncos have three guys - Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, and Antonio Smith - slated to hit the market. However, with so much money devoted to Corey Liuget, a big name, bank the break signing isn't likely to come here. Especially with so much talent in the draft. Ohio State's Joey Bosa and Mississippi's Robert Nkemdiche lead the group and both would look great in lightning bolts. Bosa is an edge rusher with excellent bend, burst and power. He can play multiple techniques in multiple fronts and is the type of player you can build around. Nkemdiche, meanwhile, has uncommon athleticism and speed for a player in the trenches, though his lack of sacks is a bit concerning. UCLA's Kenny Clark, Baylor defender Andrew Billings, Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson, and Oregon's DeForest Buckner are among the other first round names to look out for.

Nose Tackle

Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Sean Lissemore ($1.750 million), Ryan Carrethers ($644k)

Cuts: Lissemore (-$1.750 million)

2016 Cap Hit: $644k

Chargers Free Agents: None

Plan Going Forward: There's no way I'm paying Sean Lissemore nearly $2 million, especially when all of it can be used to upgrade the rest of the roster.  The Jets Damon Harrison is one of the best nose tackles in the league and easily the best on the market if Telesco decides to open up his wallet again. Tennessee Titan's nose tackle Sammie Lee Hill and Redskins defensive lineman Terrance Knighton are two big guys also on the market. As for the draft, UCLA's Kenny Clark is arguable the best run defender in college football and can play multiple techniques. Baylor's Andrew Billings has upped his draft stock this season, as has Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson. However, these three will likely only be options if the Chargers were to play themselves out of a top 10 pick or if these three were to fall to the 2nd round.

Outside Linebacker

Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Melvin Ingram ($7.751 million), Jerry Attaouchu ($1.146 million), Tourek Williams ($702k), Kyle Emanuel ($579k), Brock Hekking ($452k)

Cuts: Hekking (-$447k)

2016 Cap Hit: $10.183 million

Chargers Free Agents: Cordarro Law

Plan Going Forward: Here's where things get really interesting. The Chargers are going to have a boatload of cash to spend this offseason and could get even more by cutting Ingram and saving all of his $7.751 million. Yes, Ingram flashes and makes the occasional impact play but they are way too far few and in between for him to be THE GUY in the Chargers defense. However, there isn't much of an upgrade over Ingram on the market, save for one guy: Von Miller. As of right now, Denver doesn't have a ton of cap room (around $20 million) given the amount of guys slated to hit the market, among them Brock Osweiler, C.J. Anderson, and five starters in the front seven. It'll be interesting to see how Elway manages all of that as some big name cuts could be a possibility and retaining both Osweiler and Miller figures to be his top priority. If Miller does hit the market he immediately becomes the top player available and will command a contract over $100 million. In all likelihood, the Chargers stand pat at the position. Attaochu has been a very pleasant surprise, particularly against the run, and he and Ingram will probably get a chance to play with an improved defensive line. At 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, Bosa is athletic enough to play with his hand off of the ground, but projects more as an end than a linebacker. Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Georgia's Leonard Floyd, Maryland's Yannick Ngakoue, and Clemson's Shaw Lawson are options in the draft.

Inside Linebacker

Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Donald Butler ($9.28 million), Manti Te'o ($1.645 million), Denzel Perryman ($1.085 million), Kavell Conner ($1.04 million), Nick Dzubnar ($526k), Chi Chi Ariguzo ($451k)

Cuts: Butler (-$2.59 million), Dzubnar (-$523k), Ariguzo (-$448k)

2016 Cap Hit: $10.466 million

Chargers Free Agents: Joe Mays

Plan Going Forward: The good news: Donald Butler is finally gone. The bad news: the Chargers still have to pay him more than $6 million even with him no longer on the roster. Still, that's a better use of money than giving him $9.28 million to actively avoid doing his job every week. After watching how the position is supposed to be played last Sunday, he can do the same from the bench for the rest of his time in San Diego. It appears that the Chargers have their starting linebackers for 2016 on the roster, though Denver's Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan, Dallas' Rolando McClain, and Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman are among those scheduled to be free agents. However, given what he shows at times - when he's not injured or missing tackles - Telesco probably won't further invest in a linebacker early in the draft for once. That goes out the window if, say, UCLA's Myles Jack - who missed most of his junior season with a knee injury - were to fall into the second round. The thought of he and Perryman playing together in the middle of the Chargers defense is downright frightening.


Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Brandon Flowers ($9.75 million), Jason Verrett ($2.152 million), Steve Williams ($723k), Craig Mager ($708k), Greg Ducre ($600k)

Cuts: None

2016 Cap Hit: $13.933 million

Chargers Free Agents: Patrick Robinson

Plan Going Forward: That Flowers number isn't as painful as it was during the first half of the season, though it's till pretty bad. But not bad enough to be cut as the Chargers would owe Flowers more than $13 million in dead money. With five players under contract for 2016 the Chargers may well stand pat here. Williams has had some lapses but has played fairly well for a No.3/No.4 guy and Ducre is a young No. 5 worth developing. I'd love to re-sing Robinson, who has been an outstanding signing, but he'll likely get more money elsewhere and the Chargers will want to see what they have, if anything, in Mager's second year.


Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Jimmy Wilson ($2 million), Darrell Stuckey ($1.668 million), Adrian Phillips ($600k)

Cuts: Wilson (-$2 million)

2016 Cap Hit: $2.268 million

Chargers Free Agents: Eric Weddle, Jahleel Addae

Plan Going Forward: What never really got brought up last offseason when the Chargers essentially refused to negotiate with Weddle was the number of excellent free agents that could be available. There was no incentive for Telesco to throw a bunch of money at the 30-year old Weddle when the likes of Eric Berry, Tashaun Gipson, Reggie Nelson, and George Iloka among those that could be on the market. Let those guys set the market, not your veteran safety who already got paid. Still, Weddle won't be back for 2016. I think he is still a great safety but it's probably better for all parties for him to play elsewhere next season. With Weddle, Addae and Wilson off of the roster are in need of two starters, which is one more than if they were all still under contract with the Chagers. Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, who can play corner and safety, is the top option in the draft but I'd much rather the Chargers address their defensive line with their first rounder than safety. Duke's Jeremy Cash has a great name and a nose for the ball, compiling a stupid 18 tackles for a loss this season. Like Cash, Boise State's Darian Thompson is listed at 6-foot-2 and is rangy safety with 16 interceptions over the last three seasons. Clemson's Jayron Kearse is probably the most physically impressive at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, while USC's Su'a Cravens, who originally played linebacker at Southern Cal, isn't far behind.

Special Teams

Players Scheduled to be on Roster: Josh Lambo ($527k), Mike Windt (898k), Mike Scifres ($4.163 million)

Cuts: Scifres (-$3.563 million)

2016 Cap Hit: $1.425 million

Chargers Free Agents: None

Plan Going Forward: As sad as it is, it's time to say goodbye to Mike Scifres, the Chargers punter for the last decade-plus. A combination of age, injuries, money, and production means it's time to cut Scifres. The good news is that McCoy's Lambo decision has certainly panned out. Baltimore's Sam Koch and Buffalo's Colton Schmidt are younger options, both of whom rank in the top 10 in the NFL in punt average and net average. Still, a cheaper option would be to either draft one of the top collegiate punters or sign an undrafted free agent. Texas A&M's Drew Kaser and Utah's Tom Hackett are names to look out for.

In Summary

Players Scheduled to be on Roster (Defense+ST): 19

2016 Cap Hit (Defense+ST): $49.469 million

Players Scheduled to be on Roster (total): 30

2016 Cap Hit (total): $100.212 million

Plan Going Forward: My cap numbers are a little off but close enough to give you an accurate idea of what Telesco will be working with. The 2015 cap was a little over $143 million and GM's and cap executives were reportedly told to expect it to rise to somewhere between $147 million to $155 million. That gives the Chargers around $50 million to fill out the roster. A deep threat receiver, multiple tight ends, fullback, right tackle, enter and additional depth are need on offense. On the other side of the ball the Chargers need to vastly upgrade their defensive line while the linebacking corps and cornerbacks are more stable. Two new starters at safety will also need to be added, as will a new punter. That may seem like a lot because it is. However,  given the Chargers cap room and draft position they will have ample opportunity to add multiple impact players.