I wrote a few days ago that we should be cautious about praising the San Diego Chargers' 2016 Free Agency class because it's really not too different from their 2015 Free Agency class that helped the team find their way to a 4-12 record and the 3rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
That being said, it wasn't difficult to see the weaknesses and holes on the roster before the 2015 NFL regular season started.
I repeatedly wrote, and said on the Squadcast podcast, that I was concerned with the lack of talent and depth on the defensive line. What happened? John Pagano's group had the worst rushing defense in the league, which put more pressure on every other part of the team.
While everyone seemed in agreement that the offensive line was better with the additions of Orlando Franklin, Joe Barksdale, and Chris Hairston, everyone wondered what exactly the team had at the Center position. Was the team really going to count on Chris Watt? Did they really trust Trevor Robinson to be a starter if Watt got hurt or didn't perform up to expectations?
These were actual questions that were being asked! Sure, Tom Telesco had added talent at CB, WR, RB, LB...but there were still gaping hopes on both lines. This follows a strange pattern or strategy that Telesco follows, one he learned from Bill Polian...
Most GMs around the NFL will tell you that the best way to build a team is "inside-out". You start by making sure your offensive and defensive lines are the best they can be, and then you start working on everyone else.
Tom Telesco doesn't seem follow this line of thinking. This offseason has just offered more proof to that theory.
There is an effort being made to keep the same group together on the offensive line, because somebody believes that continuity is more important than talent, and a veteran has been added to the defensive line, but the big money (for "new additions") is being spent elsewhere.
- Money spent acquiring linemen: $13.5M
- Money spent acquiring WR, CB, and DB: $46.5M
I know the team is in a rush to plug holes where guys have left (Malcom Floyd, Patrick Robinson, Eric Weddle), but it's plain to see that the issues this team has on the roster every single season are the result of them trying to plug holes instead of trying to build a steady foundation (with the trade up to pick Melvin Gordon in the 1st Round of the 2015 NFL Draft being a perfect example).
Improve Your Talent
So far, Tom Telesco has done a great job of replacing guys that have departed.
- Brandon Mebane replaces Kendall Reyes
- Dwight Lowery replaces Eric Weddle
- Casey Heyward replaces Patrick Robinson
- Travis Benjamin replaces Malcom Floyd
It's as if Telesco has no idea how to move forward, and wants to maintain the status quo of a team that went 4-12 last season.
What he should be focused on (and, the good news is, there's still time!) is improving the talent on his team wherever possible.
Jalen Ramsey doesn't plug a hole, but he improves the talent in the defensive backfield. The Chargers should draft him.
Stefen Wisniewski doesn't plug a hole, but he improves the talent in the middle of the offensive line. Why haven't the Chargers signed him?
Cap Space / Right Fit
Chargers have $13.6M in cap space, per NFLPA. Must budget for draft picks, in-season reserve, etc. But enough to do what they want in FA.— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) March 18, 2016
Over The Cap actually has them at a little more than $13.2M in cap space, but that's besides the point.
Figure the team probably wants to mark off $7M for those draft picks, in-season pickups, etc.
The Chargers are left with a little over $6M that they can still spend in free agency this year, and everyone is still wondering if they're really going to rely on Chris Watt and Trevor Robinson to be their starting Centers.
Stefen Wisniewski isn't great, he's probably not going to the Pro Bowl, but he's a hell of a lot better than Watt and Robinson. And, considering how much cash the Chargers have burning a hole in their pocket, he's pretty damn cheap.
Last offseason was Stefen's first shot at free agency after four season spent with the Oakland Raiders (who drafted him in the 2nd round in 2011). He ended up signing a 1-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars for $2.5M. Tom Telesco would be smart to offer him a 3-year contract worth about $3M per season, and I think Wisniewski would be smart to take it.