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The Chargers Need to Lock Up Melvin Ingram

With Melvin Ingram about to hit free agency, the Chargers need to do everything in their power to lock him up.

The San Diego Chargers have a lot of moving parts revolving around the franchise. Who will coach them? Where will the team play next year? Who will they draft? One of the biggest questions they will need to address this off-season is should they lock up their former 2012 first round pick, Melvin Ingram, to a long term contract?

Melvin Ingram is a polarizing player. At times he flashes dominance while at other times he appears lost. His play is so controversial that even the staffers at Bolts From The Blue have opposing opinions on the outside linebacker.

However, this is a no-brainer for San Diego; they absolutely must re-sign Ingram to a long-term deal this off-season no matter what. Let’s talk about what type of player the Chargers would lose if they let Melvin Ingram walk. Over the last two years, Ingram has displayed the ability to stay on the field for San Diego while playing at a high level. During that two year span, Ingram has averaged 63 tackles, 9 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Those numbers are fantastic considering the fact that Ingram is asked by his defensive coordinator, John Pagano, to drop into coverage more than 23% of the time (which is about 10% higher than Von Miller, a player people compare Ingram to for some reason). Speaking of Von Miller, the Broncos outside linebacker tied for 6th this year, with 29 quarterback hurries in 16 games this year. The player he was tied with, was no other than Melvin Ingram.

Like his quarterback hurries, a lot of what Ingram does on the field does not show up on the stat sheet. Pagano asks a lot of Ingram and uses him like a human chess piece. Ingram is an outside linebacker, a defensive end, a defensive tackle, a pass rusher, and a zone defender. Pagano lines Ingram up all over the field to take advantage of his versatility. It is his versatility that helps him wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

This year, Ingram became a captain for the San Diego defense. The 27-year-old linebacker is one of the few veterans the Chargers have on the defensive side of the ball. His leadership and experience would be a terrible thing to lose for such a young and talented defense. Which now leads us to Joey Bosa.

The advocates of “Let Ingram Walk” are quick to say the Chargers can afford to lose Melvin because of the emergence of Joey Bosa. However, this would be the worst thing for Bosa. Year two is sometimes a year of regression for young players. Coaches have more game tape of these sophomoric players which helps them prepare for their tendencies. Bosa’s growth would be in jeopardy. With no other weapon opposite of Bosa for teams to fear, a coach can easily slide protection to Joey’s side to neutralize him.

Who cares right? The Chargers have the seventh pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and can just select Ingram’s replacement there. And yes, San Diego could draft a pass rusher at seven, but the odds that rookie comes in from day one and replicates Ingrams’ production would be extremely rare. That being said, the Chargers should certainly consider a pass rusher in the first round of this years draft, but not so they could replace Ingram. San Diego should draft a pass rusher with the seventh selection in this year’s draft to enhance Ingram’s (and Bosa’s) skill sets.

Like stated before Ingram is versatile, so he gives a defensive coordinator the ability to line him up anywhere on the field. A combination of Ingram, Bosa, and a Derek Barnett or a Tim Williams would be a nightmare for offensive coordinators to guard against. With Bosa at the end position, the rookie at the edge position, and Ingram at the outside linebacker spot, Pagano (or whoever takes over for him) can create exotic blitzes so that coordinators wouldn’t be able to focus on any particular pass rusher with double teams/chips. This would ensure the success of all parties (Ingram, Bosa, and the rookie).

So the next question is, how much is Melvin Ingram worth. He most likely will be asking for a contract north of Ryan Kerrigan, so about a 5-year deal ranging from $12-$14 million per year. This is where the support for Ingram breaks down. The go to criticism here is how does a team pay that much money for a player who only has one year of double digit sacks? Simple, the market dictates/ justifies this type of compensation. Teams HAVE to pay a premium for certain positions. Quarterbacks, offensive tackles, and pass rushers are the three positions teams have to overpay for. So yes, the Chargers might be overpaying for Ingram, but that is ok for two reasons. First, the salary cap has been going up almost $10 million per year over the last couple of years. Secondly, San Diego only has 3 years remaining on Rivers contract (which is a $20 million cap hit per year). There have been rumblings that the Chargers will start looking for Rivers’ successor in one of the next two drafts. So between, the cap increasing every year, and Rivers contract coming off the books soon, the Melvin Ingram contract would not cripple San Diego as some have concluded.

The criticism for Ingram is somewhat justified. He is the “almost” sack guy for the Chargers. And yes while that can be frustrating, it still shows that Ingram can affect a game. No, Ingram isn’t an elite player, like Justin Houston, Khalil Mack, JJ Watt, Von Miller, etc. However, that is why we aren’t talking about an elite ($100 million) contract here. Ingram is a really good player that the Chargers need to pay really good. Before you decide, read my fellow colleague, Ryan Doyle’s piece, “Why the Chargers Should Move On From Melvin Ingram” and decide for yourself.