The beginning of the free agency period is right around the corner (March 7) and the Chargers still have plenty of work ahead of them. As you know, we’ve already discussed the Chargers cuts and unrestricted free agent class in detail. Now the question becomes, does Los Angeles have any restricted or exclusive rights free agents worth retaining?
All told, the Chargers have 13 restricted and exclusive rights free agents set to test the market. While the vast majority of these players have yet to carve out roles with the team and aren’t likely to return, a handful of them will be considered for new deals, if not re-signed. Let’s take a quick look at all of them.
Restricted Free Agents
Korey Toomer (RFA): There is no question Toomer earned the right to stick around with his 75-tackle, 1-sack, 3-forced-fumble season that encompassed eight starts in thirteen total games played. He was disruptive against the run, reliable against the pass, and had a knack for making plays. The only real question is: what sort of contract has the 28-year old linebacker earned? My guess is the Chargers opt to give him a little job security with a two-year deal. Not necessarily how I’d approach it (one year deal), but you’ll get no complaints from me.
Projected contract: 2 years, $2.75M, $750 guaranteed
Dontrelle Inman (RFA): While I’ve been critical of Inman at times, watching him develop into a respectable 3rd/4th receiver during a lost season was a true pleasure. Dontrelle works hard, Philip Rivers trusts him, and he showed he faster and a better route runner than I thought he was. Whereas I thought they should have sought an upgrade over Inman in the 2016 draft, I would say he’s since earned a low-cost 3-year deal.
Projected contract: 3 years, $5M, $1.5M guaranteed
Branden Oliver (RFA): Branden Oliver wouldn’t be a Charger in 2017 if I were calling the shots. Why? Mainly because he’s made expendable by his lack of availability (8 games from 2015-2016), he’s easily replaced in the draft (or with a UDFA), and because I just don’t think he’s all that good. Having said that, I don’t expect Danny Woodhead to remain a Charger, Oliver will come cheap, and I can’t envision a scenario in which Tom Telesco allows both Woodhead and Oliver to walk. Unlike Toomer and Inman, Oliver hasn’t earned a multi-year deal.
Projected Contract: 1 year, $850K, $225K guaranteed
Kenny Wiggins (RFA): Whereas I thought Kenny Wiggins played a key role in holding the offensive line together in 2015, he was at the heart of several breakdowns in the kicking game due to missed blocks. I just can’t see him coming back with Donavan Clark, Spencer Pulley, and Max Tuerk all expected to be healthy in 2017. Kenny will find himself on the outside looking in.
Projected contract: No soup for you
Tenny Palepoi (RFA): A look at the big picture suggests the Chargers will need to replace Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget before the start of the 2018 season. That same big picture also suggests that, while Tenny is a source of energy as a role player in sub packages, he does not project as a long-term replacement for either defensive tackle. Personally, I would part ways with Tenny and seek a higher-upside replacement capable of ascending into a larger role with the seventh overall pick in the draft, but I don’t think the Chargers see things the same way. Tenny will probably get a one-year deal unless his PED suspension poisoned the well for him with the front office.
Projected contract: 1 year, $800K, $175K guaranteed
Sean McGrath (RFA): This is easy – the Chargers don’t (or certainly shouldn’t) have any use for a tight end who can neither block nor catch passes. McGrath is done.
Projected contract: Be gone.
Asante Cleveland (RFA): Another easy one.
Projected contract: See ya.
Adrian Phillips (ERFA): How would you react if I told you I thought what the Chargers do with Adrian Phillips will tell us whether they plan to draft a safety this year? You’d probably pull your hair out, right? Well, that’s where I think we find ourselves…and I don’t think you’ll like how this plays out. I suspect the team will retain both Jahleel Addae and Adrian Phillips; which means another draft without a long-term solution at safety. Don’t hate the messenger.
Projected contract: 2 years, $1.8M, $500K guaranteed
Andre Williams: There is a power element to Williams’ game that I think the team appreciates and he looks pretty good in his week 17 cameo against the Chiefs. Andre probably won’t have much of a market and I could see the team letting him walk and re-visiting either a practice squad spot or a one-year deal with a chance to make the roster if they don’t find a better option in the draft. For now, we’ll say he hits the market.
Projected contract: Hit the bricks
Isaiah Burse: While I thought Burse showed some promise as a return man in 2016, he didn’t do enough to guarantee himself a roster spot, has a limited ceiling as a receiver, and the time has come to invest another draft pick in the position (hopefully someone who elevates the return game). I like Isaiah, but I think he hits the market.
Projected contract: Adios, amigo
Javontee Herndon, Jeremy Butler, Geremy Davis: None of these players have given the Chargers a reason to keep them and they’ll all be looking for work in the near future.
Well, folks, that’s my take on the Chargers 2017 restricted and exclusive rights free agent classes. While I would only re-sign Korey Toomer and Dontrelle Inman for the reasons mentioned above, I believe the team will retain Toomer, Inman, Branden Oliver, Tenny Palepoi and Adrian Phillips. And, as strange as it may sound, I think what the team does with Phillips could provide some insight into their plans for the seventh pick in the draft.
Thank you for reading and please keep an eye out for my next piece, which will cover my top five offensive free agents. And, as usual, let me know what you think in the comments section…