There is a cliche’ saying, “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure.” Over the last couple of offseasons, Los Angeles Chargers GM, Tom Telesco, has lived by that mantra. Players like Casey Hayward, Joe Barksdale, Matt Slauson, Tre Boston, and Mike Pouncey, were all once deemed expendable for numerous reasons by their former team only to find a home in L.A. They were either considered too old, overpaid, or an underperformer by their respective former team. However, Tom Telesco, with open arms said, “Give me your old, you’re overpaid, you’re under performers yearning to play for me.” Telesco signed these “Expendables” to minimal risk deals to help bolster Los Angeles’ roster, and as a result, received substantial contributions from these high character veterans.
For this reason, the Chargers GM is often referred to as “The Coupon God” by L.A. fans. Now I don’t expect Los Angeles to sign any big free agents this offseason because that is not their style. However, after advancing to the second round of the playoffs this past year; I fully expect “The Coupon God” to strike again and snatch up another veteran off the scrap heap that still has something left to prove. Here are some potential players that are in jeopardy of being released that could add tremendous value to a contending Bolts squad.
After a 34-32 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the 30 year old McCoy was quoted as saying, “Regardless of what people say, or whatever, I gave this organization everything I had, on the field and off the field. People don’t have the slightest idea.” Now I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like McCoy does not expect to be playing in Tampa Bay in 2019. Maybe he was onto something, because according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, the Buccaneers are going through a schematic change on the defensive side of the ball and are likely to move on from the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
If Tampa decides to part ways with McCoy, they would be able to save $13 million in cap space which makes his release that much more likely. Even though he hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2013, Gerald McCoy still has plenty left in the tank and would be a valuable commodity for the Chargers, on the field, and in the locker room. Last year, in 14 games, McCoy had 6 sacks (which was 0.5 sack fewer than the three starting defensive tackles for the Chargers), 6 tackles for a loss, 21 QB hits, and a Pro Football Focus grade of 78.6 (above average) which ranked him 29th among all interior defensive linemen.
Thanks to Brandon Mebane and Darius Philon being free agents, and Corey Liuget’s poor play, the Chargers have a bunch of question marks in the middle of their defensive line. McCoy can add some much need production and disruption from the interior of the defensive. Most importantly, if Mebane does retire, McCoy can fill right in as a high character veteran leader in the locker room. This has the makings of a Tom Telesco signing all over it.
We now move from the most likely signing scenario by Tom Telesco to perhaps the most aggressive acquisition. It was considered a steal when the New York Jets selected Leonard Williams sixth overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Coming out of USC, he was highly considered one of the best, and safest prospect by many draft pundits. The former Trojan was proving these experts right especially after his sophomore season with the Jets, where he recorded seven sacks and seemed to be on an upward trajectory. However, unfortunately for Williams, it has been somewhat downhill from there.
This past year, the Jets defensive tackle showed difficulty fighting off double teams which translated to his second subpar stat line in as many years where he amassed five sacks, 42 total tackles (which were a career low), 11 tackles for a loss, and 20 QB hits. New York management seems to be growing frustrated with Williams failing to live up to his lofty expectations which is evident in ESPN’s Rich Cimini’s report when he suggested the Jets are looking into dealing the 24-year-old defensive tackle for a second-round pick. New York’s asking price is a second round pick, but I am sure they would settle for a lot less to rid themselves of Williams’ $14.2 million cap hit in 2019. It will be hard for them to move the defensive tackle during a year where the NFL Draft has an abundance of talented interior linemen that would be much more cost effective.
Telesco has a reputation for hating his fourth-round selection, which would be a solid starting point in negotiations with the Jets. Chargers fans might be asking themselves, why would L.A. part with draft capital for such a high-risk player? Simple, Williams is still young; 24 to be precise. Coming out of college, it takes time for defensive linemen to find their stride in the NFL. Players such as Cameron Heyward, Jurrell Casey, and Akiem Hicks have all found success after they turned 25. Also, Leonard Williams would not have the same issues as he did in New York because teams would be too busy double teaming Ingram and Bosa that he would garner less attention/double teams. So Los Angeles could either provide a low ball offer to New York or wait for them to cut the former first rounder and attempt to persuade him to come back to the town he played college ball in. Either way, Tom Telesco needs to monitors this situation closely.
Chargers fans, do you notice a trend here? With Mebane, Philon, and Damion Square all free agents this year, and Liuget’s inability to stay on the field (and when he does he is mediocre at best); it is clear to see the middle of L.A.’s defensive line is extremely murky. For this reason, NFL Draft experts have been mocking all sorts of defensive tackles to the Chargers in this year’s draft. That being said, head coach Anthony Lynn has admitted that he feels like it is difficult to evaluate defensive tackles coming out of college because of the level of competition and schemes teams play at the collegiate level. This leads me to believe that L.A. and Tom Telesco could be looking at potential offseason player cuts to address their biggest need.
Now the two players mentioned above would address Los Angeles’ need for a penetrating three-technique defensive tackle. However, the GM of the Chargers could go in a different direction and target a zero/one technique nose tackle to replace Mebane. To do so, the Bolts are going to need to find a big body, space eating, run stuffer to keep their linebackers clean. Ironically, there is such a player that will most likely be available as a result of being a cap casualty victim. I am referring to none other than another former first-round pick, Marcell Dareus. Dareus’ current team, Jacksonville, is in cap hell as they are over the cap by $3 million this year and only have $16 million available the following year. And after the Bortles failed experiment, the Jaguars are in need of a serious facelift and will be forced to make some cuts to get under the cap threshold. Unfortunately for Dareus, having a high priced nose tackle is more of a luxury than a necessity nowadays. So look for Jacksonville to part with the 6’3”, 331-pound defensive lineman and his $10.5 million salary to free up some much-needed cap space.
Marcell is still only 29 years old, and while his stats don’t jump off the paper (1 sack, two tackles for a loss, 2 QB hits, and 32 total tackles); he does serve a vital purpose in stopping the run. What he specializes in, occupying double teams, so players on the second and third levels have a clear path to the ball carrier, often doesn’t show up in the stat cheats. For these reasons, Dareus earned an 80.9 grade by Pro Football Focus which ranked him 27th among all interior defensive lineman last year. Chargers fans, still not convinced? Then let us look at his impact in 2017 when the Jaguars acquired him. In 2017, the Jaguars had the worst run defense in the league circa Dareus. After they traded for the former Buffalo Bill; Jacksonville went from worst to first in run defense giving up a mere 55.3 yards per game at a measly 2.6 yards per carry. Los Angeles is in need of a run-stuffing nose tackle, and if cut, Dareus will be in need of employment during such a competitive time for interior linemen. This could lead to a beautiful (and cheap) marriage between L.A. and Marcell.
Okay so enough with the fat guys and let us get to the fast guys. It seems like every couple of years wideout DeSean Jackson is looking for a new team. When Tampa Bay signed Jackson to a three-year deal back in 2016, they had believed they finally found the missing link to make a potent Buccaneers offense. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, and not to the fault of Jackson. Last year Jackson reeled in 41 receptions for 774 yards and four touchdowns to help give him a Pro Football Focus grade of 79.4 (25th ranked WR). However, DeSean feels like he is not being used correctly in Tampa, and per Josina Anderson, has stated his preference is to move on from the Bucs this season regardless of the hiring of Bruce Arians.
Desean will be a natural candidate to be released this offseason as he is due $10 million with no guaranteed cash left on his deal. So why is Jackson on this list? Recently the former Cal Bear stated he wants to come back to the place where he played college ball, Los Angeles (kind of). DeSean was quoted to say, “I would like to end up in L.A., being a Ram...Sean McVay, you know we got some connections from when I was in D.C.” The Rams are loaded at the wideout position and have far more pressing needs than obtaining another wide receiver. That being said, I do think there is a high chance he comes out west to play in Los Angeles, with the Chargers. This offseason, the Chargers will undoubtedly be outbid for their talented wideout, Tyrell Williams.
So what is the best way to replace their dangerous deep threat other than to sign someone who leads the NFL with an 18.9 yards per catch average, DeSean Jackson? The pairing of DeSean Jackson and the Chargers almost makes to much sense. The Chargers finally get a player that can not only take the top off the defense but also able to provide life in the return game (goodbye Travis Benjamin); while Jackson gets to play for a contender who resides in the destination he covets. As for the price tag, Jackson shouldn’t break the bank because of his age, and by signing Jackson, the Chargers can then shed themselves free from Travis Benjamin’s bloated contract which would ultimately result in a wash of cap space.
The Chargers could look at the state of Florida again but go in a different direction if they want to replace the departing Tyrell Williams. DeVante Parker is in dire needs of relocation as he is trying to dodge the dreaded B label. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins appear very likely to move on from the former Louisville Cardinal wideout as they are going through the rebuilding process. During his tenure with Miami, Parker was plagued by injuries and was also a vertical threat who suffered from quarterbacks who could not push the ball downfield. His numbers will not excite Chargers fans (caught 24 of 47 targets for 309 yards and one touchdown), but his physical gifts could be an asset. The 26-year-old wide receiver would not have to be the savior of the passing game as he was being looked at in South Beach which would help him thrive in a complementary role. This would be the offensive version of when Telesco signed Casey Hayward from Green Bay a couple of years back; a low risk, cost-effective signing of a player who hasn’t reached his potential with his former team.
Ask any Chargers fan who the worst player on the defense was this past year and 10 out of 10 would say number 37, Jahleel Addae. Week after week, Bolts enthusiasts would watch the six-year vet regularly take poor angles in both run and pass support. It is not entirely his fault as he played out of position for the entire year. Addae is in no shape or form a free safety and is best when he is closer to the line of scrimmage. This could (but probably won’t) make Tom Telesco look for a more natural free safety.
The Chargers GM might want to keep an eye out on what is going on in Pittsburgh. Steelers safety, Morgan Burnett, who signed a three-year contract with Pittsburgh last year, already wants out. Per Ian Rapoport, Burnett has asked the Steelers to release him before free agency starts because he felt like he played out of position as a dime LB, and wants to play the position he started when he came into the league, free safety. The safety market over the last couple of years has been somewhat depressed which could lead Tom Telesco to take advantage of obtaining a player in Morgan at a bargain price to fulfill a significant need in the back-end of the defense.
Linebacker seems to be one of the top, if not the top, priority for Los Angeles this upcoming offseason. I foresee them attacking the need early in the NFL draft (Mack Wilson). But if they were to miss out on their targets, then the next logical move would be to sign a cheap veteran like they did when they signed Dwight Freeney back in 2013. The Dallas Cowboys have two excellent, young linebackers in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. With the emergence of Smith and LVE, I would not be surprised if the Cowboys decided to part ways with the 32-year-old, middle linebacker, Sean Lee to save $7 million in cap space. WHEN HEALTHY, Lee is an extremely cerebral and instinctive linebacker. Lee is a perfect field general that does a fantastic job of communicating with his teammates to put them in the position they need to be in to be successful. A player that like could be valuable on and off the field as a mentor to the younger linebackers like Jatavis Brown. Lee would be a high character player that would fit into the small budget of the Chargers.
Do any of these players excite you Chargers fans? Are there any other players out there on the verge of being cut that the Bolts should target, ie: Malik Jackson? You know what to do, sound off below!