Before I explain why the Chargers should be bringing back Jahleel Addae next season, here's a 'disclaimer' of sorts:
No, I don't support the way Jahleel Addae will sometimes launch his head to tackle an opposing player. It's incredibly dangerous, both for him and his victim. If I ran the NFL, Addae wouldn't be allowed to step back onto the field. Unfortunately, the NFL don't care about player safety until it starts losing them money, so Addae is going to be playing football for somebody next season. Hopefully, that's the Chargers.
Jahleel Addae is by no means an all-star safety - which means he isn't going to get paid like one. My estimation is that the Chargers could find a way to bring him back on a 3 year, $11m deal, which is good value for a starting safety and decent value for a good backup. Sure, the Chargers could find someone to do his job in Free Agency, but you'd be paying over the odds for someone who may not actually be an upgrade. Gus Bradley may be tempted to bring in Jonathan Cyprien, a worse player than Addae who'd probably come at a steeper cost. Purely from a financial standpoint, bringing back Addae - even if that wasn't as a long term starter - would be a logical thing to do.
Another big reason that Addae should be bought back is that the Chargers really can't afford to lose him. Dwight Lowery, Dexter McCoil, Darrell Stuckey, and Adrian McDonald are the only safeties under contract for next season, with Adrian Phillips joining Jahleel Addae on the list of players soon to become FAs. That's weak. That's incredibly weak.
Adrian Phillips is raw and could probably do with a lot more time spent on the Practice Squad. Darrell Stuckey is purely a Special Teams player at this point in his career. Adrian McDonald has never appeared in an NFL game. Dexter McCoil joined the Chargers with a lot of hype surrounding him but had a largely disappointing first season with the team. Dwight Lowery is consistently getting caught out in zone coverage, making bad reads and then not having the foot speed to recover. He's not an aggressive tackler - he doesn't miss as many as some other players on the Chargers roster, but he has a terrible habit of waiting for a ballcarrier to meet him, rather than going to meet the ballcarrier, which means an extra few yards for the offense each time. He's simply not a starting caliber safety.
That means that, if Jahleel Addae walks, the Chargers are going to need two new starting safeties next season. Not only is that a nightmare in terms of chemistry and having the defense on the same page but finding two good safeties in one offseason is near on impossible. Unless the Chargers wanted to spend huge money trying to attract Tony Jefferson (who is definitely worth the investment), or potentially Barry Church from the Cowboys, I don't see a better safety than Addae in FA (assuming that the Chiefs don't let Eric Berry walk).
In terms of the draft, it's a fairly deep one for safeties this year, but to get a day one starter you'd probably need to pick one in the first round at #7. Not only would that mean missing out on a top quality edge rusher or
Patrick Mahomes the future of the Chargers but I'm skeptical that there's a safety on the board worthy of being the pick at #7. Letting Addae walk means opening up another hole on a team that already has it's fair share of them - which would then mean a problem that either needs a lot of cash from a cash-strapped team or the use of a high draft pick to fix.
Here's the kicker - Jahleel Addae is actually a good football player.
I know I'm very much in the minority with that opinion (I seem to be the only one from BFTB actually in favor of resigning him), but I really believe that he is. The word I'd use to describe Addae is 'dependable'. He's not going to win you games on his own, and he's not going to make highlight reel plays, but he is going to give you a solid option in the secondary that you can trust to do his job.
Last year, John Pagano liked to mix and match with his safeties and used Addae as both a 'box safety' and as the lone deep safety. I think that's a waste of Addae's talent. He's far, far more valuable as a box safety playing up to the line of scrimmage than he is playing the center-fielder role. That's not to say he's bad in coverage, though:
Nice coverage by Addae on a quick WR pic.twitter.com/hwxE4h5psD— Jupjamie (@jupjamie) February 15, 2017
Cecil Shorts is a WR with a lot of speed, but Addae guards him well on this play. A natural athlete, Addae backtracks quickly, keeping his eyes on Shorts and waiting for his break. When Shorts makes his cut, Addae flips his hips smoothly and is in a good position to make a play on the ball if Jameis Winston doesn't overthrow it.
I'll happily admit that Jahleel Addae is not somebody you want in man coverage very often. That's just not his forte. Addae isn't going to win any awards for his coverage when in zone, but he's fairly comfortable doing it. He stays aware of his surroundings, and he has the good habit of always looking to find work. If there's no-one coming into his zone, he'll quickly turn his attention to somewhere else and take that option away for the QB.
Compare that to Adrian Phillips:
Where Addae really comes into his own, however, is as a 'box safety', playing close to the line of scrimmage to be a force against the run. He's naturally aggressive (and yes, this is sometimes a problem rather than a good thing), a good tackler when he's not using his head and is a smart football player who, for the most part, displays good instincts when reading what's unfolding on the field in front of him.
As soon as Addae reads that it's a run, he's chasing the ballcarrier as if his life depended on it, getting around the edge and stuffing the RB for a gain of just one yard.
This really shows the difference between Jahleel Addae and any other safety the Chargers have on the roster. While Adrian Phillips is making a terrible effort to shed his block, Jahleel Addae sprints over from the other side of the field, spearing Adam Humphries and saving the TD. Addae is someone who genuinely likes contact - while that can result in dangerous collisions (because he's been on the Chargers for four years and still hasn't been taught how to tackle safely), it's a skill that's sorely needed in a secondary that otherwise could be perceived as soft or timid.
In summary, I think the Chargers would be making a huge mistake to not bring back Jahleel Addae next season. He's clearly the best safety the Chargers currently have on the roster, and they'd be making a big mistake by trying to find two new starters in one offseason (and an even bigger mistake by thinking Dwight Lowery is adequate as a starter).
I'm interested to see how Addae would fare under Gus Bradley's tutor-ledge. Bradley was part of the Seattle Seahawks when they first started teaching the idea of Rugby-Style Tackling, a safe way of bringing down an opponent without putting your head in harm’s way. I can't think of a player who that would be more beneficial for in the league than Jahleel Addae.
Even if he doesn't improve on his current skillset, Addae is a solid, dependable player. If he's utilized in the proper way (i.e. not as the deep safety), I’d even go so far as to argue that he's a good safety in the National Football League. He has talent, he plays at a position the Chargers are sorely lacking said talent at, and he'd be available for a good price.
Bring him back, Tom Telesco. It's the right thing to do.