Coming off a 5-11 season that saw head coach Mike McCoy fired, the Los Angeles Chargers obviously have a lot of holes to fill. Tom Telesco had a great draft and also made a couple high impact free agent signings in 2016, but his roster remains lacking in depth and too reliant on injury prone players. He only has a few years at most left of franchise quarterback level play from Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ new home will not be receptive to a mediocre on-field product.
Last week, ESPN insider’s Bill Barnwell suggested five moves that each AFC West team ought to make this offseason and this is what he put forward as his priorities for the Chargers (follow the link above for his rationale):
1. Franchise DE Melvin Ingram.
2. Release King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker as part of an offensive line rebuild.
3. Re-sign Woodhead.
4. Bring back S Jahleel Addae if his market settles.
5. Start transitioning at cornerback.
The idea of placing the Franchise Tag on Ingram rather than re-signing him or letting him walk is a novel one. His cap number for 2017 would obviously be higher than it would be if he were to sign a long-term deal, but the Chargers could certainly benefit from getting a season to see how he fits into Gus Bradley’s defense (as Barnwell points out) and there has been some chatter worrying about how Ingram would handle playing under a long-term contract. The limited flexibility this offseason could be worth it to avoid committing Olivier Vernon-type money to a pass rusher that is closer to being average than being an elite player.
The Chargers have had one of the worst offensive lines in football for a few years now and they would do well to move on from pretty much every starter not named Matt Slauson. Joe Barksdale, however, costs more if he’s cut than if he’s retained and it’s probably still a year too early to expect the Chargers to give up on Orlando Franklin, though they’d probably be smart to consider it anyway. Dunlap and Fluker, however, are grossly overpriced for what they bring to the table at this point in their careers. Dunlap cannot stay healthy and frankly, his concussion history is worrisome. Fluker, on the other hand, has been an enormous disappointment since his rookie season. He was unable to stick at tackle and had to be moved to guard. He has never really found his footing at the new position either and on top of that, he can’t stay on the field thanks to injuries. The Chargers could do much better with that cap room than retaining either of these players.
Re-signing Danny Woodhead is certainly an inoffensive suggestion. He’s one of the best third-down running backs in the NFL when healthy. That said, he is on the older side for a running back and he has struggled to stay healthy since signing with the Chargers. While you’re not going to find a player of his caliber later in the draft, the Chargers don’t necessarily need one thanks to the emergence of Melvin Gordon as a receiving threat. There are also comparable younger talents such as Rex Burkhead available in free agency.
Though he’s one of the less popular Chargers players around here, Addae has become a valuable if injury prone and inconsistent performer. And if in fact, there is not a big market for his services and he can be retained on the relative cheap, it would be difficult to take issue with Tom Telesco re-signing the hard-hitting safety. However, if he commands a higher price tag, the Chargers would be better served by targeting one of the Arizona Cardinals’ free agent safeties, either D.J. Swearinger or (if they’re willing to pay up) Tony Jefferson.
The need to add bigger cornerbacks is probably overstated regardless of Gus Bradley’s preference for size at the position, but there is no denying that the Chargers are in desperate need of additional depth at the position. Brandon Flowers is not tall, but more importantly, he’s no longer able to cover anyone that can run or able to stay healthy. He needs to be replaced this offseason. Craig Mager has been a bust and it is time to invest in the draft again. Hopefully, this time Telesco can find a player that can actually play the position. The rest of the corners behind Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett were basically signed off the street and are of roughly the caliber you’d expect with that pedigree.
Overall, it’s difficult to disagree too much with Barnwell’s suggestions even though he seems to be reaching with regard to some of these moves being treated as priorities. What do you think? Do you agree with Barnwell’s strategy for the offseason?