After the Los Angeles Chargers selected Derwin James during last year’s NFL Draft, Jahleel Addae’s days as a Charger were numbered. Addae was limited to playing in the box as a safety and James was obviously a far superior option. The team, which has long loved Addae, decided to try him out as the free safety. That experiment was a disaster.
Over the course of the year, we saw more and more of Rayshawn Jenkins splitting time at the position. When the Chargers took on the Ravens in the playoffs, Addae actually spent time trying to play linebacker. Addae who came into the league as an undrafted free agent and continuously put in a tremendous amount of effort had earned his spot as a starter and the contract that came along with it. But as the defense grew more and more talented, he was always going to eventually get squeezed out.
In addition to Jenkins, the team has already re-signed Jaylen Watkins who was unable to play this past season due to injury. The two will both probably be given the opportunity to compete for a chance to start unless a big name free agent is signed. Some will also mention Adrian Phillips, but if he’s retained it does not seem likely he would be asked to move to free safety.
On the big name free agent side of things, Tashaun Gipson is one of the more exciting names. One wonders if he would be willing to play in a Gus Bradley defense again given some of the things he said after Bradley was fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is a very good player, though, and would likely not be too pricy.
Earl Thomas has to be mentioned just because he is the best player at the position available, but he will almost certainly command a contract that does not fit within the confines of the Chargers’ remaining salary cap space.
In the more reasonable part of the market, Tyrann Mathieu certainly stands out and would frankly be an amazing get for Telesco.
If they don’t elect to add a player in free agency, they could also look toward the draft. Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a realistic choice with the 28th overall pick, though it would be surprising to see the team go back-to-back years with a 1st round safety. Behind him Nasir Adderley (someone Garrett Sisti and Jamie Hoyle were very high on during their safeties episode) is also interesting.