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How I Felt About the Chargers in Free Agency

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Let’s take a look at my overall thoughts of this year’s free agent class

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I am glad that Tom Telesco doesn’t feel the need to go for a “dream team” scenario in free agency every year. He is focused on retaining quality players, adding a few key depth pieces, and potentially improving one or two positions as well. Tom Telesco has stated he wants to build his team through the draft, and with quality pickups like Joey Bosa, Hunter Henry, Jatavis Brown, Drew Kaser, Melvin Gordon, Denzel Perryman, Jason Verrett, and Keenan Allen, he has shown that he knows what constitutes a good draft pick. How’d he do this year? Did he open his pocketbook too much to grab a player? Or did he not make enough efforts in other areas/positions? You be the judge.

Notable Signings

Russell Okung - LT

Kyle Posey put together this article on Okung, but I’m still not sure how I feel about the signing. Okung was a very good tackle with the Seahawks, but was pretty meh for the Broncos. He was consistent in being on the field, but if the Chargers were looking for someone who would be on the field more than Dunlap, they made a mistake. In 7 years in the league, Okung has only played one full season. I mean, I guess Okung has only missed 13 games over the last 4 seasons compared to Dunlap’s 18. The redeeming factor is that Okung hasn’t been battling concussion problems (like Dunlap has), is younger, and probably has a few good years left in him. Check out the article. Differing sites have differing numbers, but it looks like the Chargers have signed him to what basically amounts to 2 two year deals, and if he plays like the elite tackle he thinks he is, and was in Seattle, keeping him by paying him an average of $13.5 million a year would make him worth it.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Kenjon Barner - RB

This article by Richard Wade is a quick write-up, and I am a little more excited than Richard is. Barner played on some very good Oregon teams, and rushed for 3600 yards and 41 TDs over his career with them. He also added just about 600 yards and 7 TDs receiving, showing he has solid chops, and showed value in the return game, with over 1600 yards and touchdowns on a kickoff and punt return as well. He has versatility, and paired with the small but battering style of Branden Oliver, they will make the perfect compliment to Melvin Gordon. I think if the Chargers went into the season tomorrow with the backs they currently have, they would be a very solid group.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Ingram - LB

It’s hard to argue with the Chargers tagging Melvin Ingram, at an estimated value of 14.5 million for next season (per Spotrac and Overthecap). Projected to be in the $16 million dollar range on a long term contract, the Chargers get to check him out for one more year before making a decision on a long term contract. He has played 2 full seasons in a row now, after missing a combined 19 games the previous two seasons, and has accumulated 18.5 sacks during that time. It’s easy to see that his presence is helpful to Joey Bosa. I don’t see the Chargers spending 16+ million a year on a guy who constantly pressures but doesn’t finish. Look for the Chargers to take someone early who can take over for Ingram when he ultimately gets paid... elsewhere.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Jahleel Addae - SS

As negative as I have been about Addae’s lack of concern for his own (and teammates’) health, I do think he’s a hard worker and is generally a good football player. He’s fun to watch, flying in and making a huge hit, but not when that hit causes a concussion to him, or gruesome injuries to other players who have worked their entire lives to be able to play the sport that they love. That being said, he’s the best safety on the roster, and the Chargers overpaid to keep him. He’s not bad, but he’s not great. Looking at the numbers, he’s the 24th highest paid safety in the NFL. He’s better than Marcus Gilchrist, and is paid a tiny bit more than Gilchrist is. While we don’t like the numbers, and there are better safeties out there, this contract isn’t the worst thing in the world, and there is an easy out for the Chargers after 2 years, and would only cost them $1 million in dead cap space.

NFL: Preseason-San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Windt - LS

Windt signed a 4 year, $4.4 million dollar contract this offseason, and it’s hard to say he doesn’t deserve it. 15 long snappers in the NFL make a million or more a season, so he got paid as he should have been. He has played in 101 games for the Chargers since 2010, and I can’t remember if he’s ever messed a snap up. You don’t think about the long snapper until they make a mistake. It’s an unheralded, quiet job, but a vital part of the team. The Chargers punted about 3.9 times a game, kicked 2 FGs a game, and just above 2 PATs per game. If I was out on the field for those 8 plays every game, you’d miss Windt a lot more than the Spanos family misses the $1.1 million they are paying to Windt a year.

NFL: Preseason-San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Kellen Clemens - QB

Would you rather have a cheap backup quarterback who is terrible, or an expensive backup quarterback who may never play? That’s the dilemma the Chargers faced, and they chose to go with cheap over effective. That being said, how many effective backup quarterbacks are there? Obviously not many, considering there are teams who can’t even find a starter. The most expensive backups pull in $18 million (Brock Osweiler), and $5.5 million (Nick Foles). I would prefer if the Chargers had someone exciting like Patrick Mahomes sitting for a few years and learning behind one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in recent history.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Branden Oliver - RB

1 year, $850 thousand dollars. It isn’t much higher than the veteran minimum, and the Chargers get a player who rushed and received for about 850 yards his rookie season, including 4 TDs. He has had some poor injury luck the past few years, but if he can stay healthy, his contract is a steal. If not, don’t expect him to be in blue and gold for much longer.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Korey Toomer - MLB

A bright spot on an injury depleted defense last year, Toomer had spent time with 4 teams in 4 different years, but finally stuck this season. He ended the season with 75 tackles, a sack, and three fumbles, despite only playing in 13 games (and starting 8). That made him good for 2nd on the team, behind electric rookie, Jatavis Brown. Tom Telesco slapped an original round tender on him, and he’ll be payed about $1.8 million dollars next year to prove he has what it takes to deserve a multi-year contract.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Williams - RB

He was re-signed by the Chargers after rushing for 87 yards in one game this season (on 18 attempts). He had the best YPC this season by any player not named Danny Woodhead. He is a solid backup, but will struggle to make the roster, considering he is sitting behind Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver, and probably even Kenneth Farrow. He’s a big back at 6’0, 220, and has had some success in his career, but has averaged 3.3 ypc on his career. Add to that fact that the Chargers have shown interest in running backs in the mid to late rounds, and it makes for a probable cut come preseason cuts. Monetary details have not been released.

Notable Cuts

NFL: Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Flowers - CB

One of the most exciting free agent pickups I remember, I was actually at Basic Combat Training for the army when my sister sent me a letter (despite not knowing anything about football) that the Chargers had signed Brandon Flowers. I was absolutely ecstatic. He was underutilized in his last season with the Chiefs, playing in the slot more than half the time which he didn’t like. The Chargers signed him to a one year “prove it” contract worth 3 million dollars. He brought the heat for the Chargers in 2014, playing in 14 games, with 52 tackles and 3 interceptions. He showed he was still one of the best corners in the game, and Telesco rewarded him with a 4 year, $36 million dollar contract. He played in only 17 games over the last two seasons, recording 61 tackles, and only 1 interception. His speed rapidly declined and he was no longer able to lock down a side of the field, so Tom Telesco decided it was time to cut him, eating a $4 million dollar cap hit, instead of paying his $9 million dollar salary he would have been owed this year.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Fluker - RG/T

Tom Telesco absolutely panicked when he selected Fluker with the 11th pick. 3 tackles went in the top 4, and 2 more guards were taken before the Chargers picked. With Fluker, they got a guy who came from Alabama, who had speed concerns and looked to be a better fit at guard. He seemed like a really nice guy, despite me not being able to understand half of what he said, but he just wasn’t a very good tackle or guard. The Chargers originally had picked up his 5th year option, but considering it was worth over $8 million, and there was no cap pentalty should the cut him, they ended up releasing him. He has since signed with the Giants, on a one year, $3 million dollar contract.

NFL: Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stevie Johnson - WR

Philip Rivers was excited about this signing, so I was ecstatic. Stevie Johnson was a former 3 time 1000 yard receiver who was coming off a couple down years due to the terrible quarterback situations in Buffalo and San Francisco. What made it even better is he decided to come to San Diego instead of playing with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Unfortunately he was not able to stay healthy for the Chargers, appearing in 10 games his first season and 0 his second. He received for 497 yards and 3 TDs, and didn’t seem to have the ability to get open he once had. He had originally signed a 3 year, 10.5 million dollar contract (with incentives to potentially push it up to $12 million). He was cut before his third season, and the Chargers will eat a $1 million dollar penalty instead of paying him $4.5 million this season.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

King Dunlap - LT

Originally a 7th round draft pick in 2008, he was discarded when the Eagles decided he didn’t have much to offer as a LT, Tom Telesco took a flier on Dunlap, signing him to a 2 year deal, worth about $4.25 million.. His second contract was a 4 year, $28 million dollar contract signed in 2015, but due to his increasingly deteriorating body, and multiple concussions, the Chargers cut him and will eat $3.25 million in dead cap space this season. He was solid when on the field, but due to age and his increasing injury concerns, he wasn’t able to make it through his second contract with the Chargers.

Let Walk

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Woodhead - RB

Danny Woodhead is a modern Chargers legend. After being ignored by the Patriots, he signed a 2 year, $3.5 million dollar contract with the Chargers, where he rushed for 429 yards, 2 TDs, and received for 605 yards and 6 TDs his first season. His second season, he got injured in his 3rd game. After year 2, Telesco decided that Woodhead had done enough to warrant another contract with the Chargers, and re-signed him to a 2 year, roughly $3.5 million dollar contract. He rewarded Tom’s faith with 336 rushing yards, 3 TDs, and received for a career high 755 yards and 6 TDs in his 3rd year with the Bolts. Unfortunately, he once again suffered a career ending injury last season, and the Chargers determined he was no longer of use to the franchise. Unfortunately, most of us fans feel oppositely, and many have headed over (as fans) to his (and Eric Weddle’s) new team, the Baltimore Ravens. He ended up signing a 3 year, $8.8 million dollar contract with them, which is pretty big considering he’s 32 years old and has had season ending injuries twice in the last three seasons. It’s hard to say goodbye, but his departure allowed for Melvin Gordon to star as the primary back he was drafted to be, and as Melvin’s first year shows, with Woodhead leaching touches, the Chargers’ huge investment in Melvin Gordon was not paying off. Woodhead, I love you, man, and I will root for you with the Ravens.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Manti Te’o - MLB

When the Chargers traded up to select Manti Te’o on the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL draft, it looked good. One of the best defensive players in the NCAA was coming to San Diego, where no one really cared about his whole fake girlfriend thing. Unfortunately, foot injuries plagued him during his time with the Chargers, (missing 26 games in 4 years) and his instincts which made him great in the NCAA did not make up for his athletic deficiencies in the NFL. Despite that, he was made the Defensive Captain for the Chargers this season, and played in a staggering 3 games. The emergence of Denzel Perryman as a force at MLB, coupled with Jatavis Brown’s exciting rookie season, and Korey Toomer’s development into a very good MLB, this was an easy decision. He ended up signing with the Saints on a 2 year, 5 million dollar contract with only $600,000 guaranteed. It’s a low risk, potentially high reward signing by the Saints, and I wish him all the best, he just didn’t work out for the Chargers.

Conclusion

I think Tom Telesco did a solid job this free agency. He re-signed who needed to be re-signed (arguably outside of Woodhead), signed Melvin Ingram to a one year contract below his probable value on the open market, and signed a once-elite LT to a very rich (read: highest paying yearly for a LT) contract which can be ditched after two seasons should he not pan out. Ever since the fiasco with Donald Butler, Telesco has been very careful to design contracts to be team friendly should they want to release the player in a few seasons. He has maintained that he will build the team through the draft, and I look forward to the draft in a few weeks, to see who the next generation of Chargers playmakers will be.