Last week I wrote up what the LA Chargers defense would look like right now if they made no other moves and the areas in the greatest need of help as free agency and the draft approach. We can identify LA’s needs at corner, interior defensive line, and linebacker easily but what about on the offensive side of the ball where they have their biggest uncertainty at quarterback in roughly 20 years?
Were they to not add another player and lose all of their free agents, this is what the Chargers offense potentially looks like today:
QB - Tyrod Taylor
RB - Justin Jackson
FLEX - Austin Ekeler (RFA)
WR - Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Andre Patton
TE - Virgil Green
LT - Russell Okung
LG - Forrest Lamp
C - Mike Pouncey
RG - Dan Feeney
RT - Sam Tevi
This would have the potential to be the worst offense in the NFL.
Not only is Taylor a bottom-five NFL starter (usually) if he were pushed into that role again but the entire offensive line has question marks of age, health, consistency, and ability. What good are Allen, Ekeler, and Williams with a “supporting cast” of these players? Not very good at all.
This may seem harsh for a QB who went to the Pro Bowl in 2015 and who only has one career start with multiple interceptions, but Taylor’s lack of mistakes can be attributed to his lack of opportunities due to the level of limitations that an offense has with him. He can also only get you so far against good competition, as the Bills went 4-2 against the Dolphins and 4-2 against the Jets with Tyrod as the starter, but 1-5 vs the Patriots.
Is Tyrod Taylor a starting option at QB for the @Chargers?— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 18, 2020
: @NFLTotalAccess pic.twitter.com/YeOS8nqhwd
No matter how many times you simulate the 2020 season in the AFC West, I imagine that there would be a low percentage of outcomes in which the Chargers don’t finish in fourth place if Tyrod is the starter. I personally don’t believe that LA has any intentions of going into next season with Taylor as the starter despite any “internal options” quotes.
The first and potentially most obvious move to help this offense — besides QB — is to give tight end Hunter Henry the franchise tag if you’re not able to come to an agreement on a long-term contract instead. This doesn’t just give them their starting tight end back — and a good one at that — but also gives them more freedom to release Green and add back $2.7 million the pool of salary cap space.
This is such a valuable move that Tom Telesco should not consider anything else.
The next best decision may be to focus all of their free agent efforts on finding a premium guard, including someone like Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff. Of course, there’s nothing a team can do if they simply lose a bidding war over a player or he’s just not interested, but getting a guard who can start at a high level for least the next two to three years would give the offensive line a starter but also better depth with either Lamp or Feeney (or both) moving to the bench or to a lower-level pressure situation.
@BFTB_Chargers Brandon Scherff has to be an option for the right side??— Ed Mardon (@edmardon23) March 11, 2015
An offensive line with a left side of Okung-Scherff-Pouncey could be one of the best corps of that position group in the NFL if all goes right and then you’ve got Lamp too. It doesn’t answer questions of age for Okung and Pouncey but wooing someone like Jack Conklin could do that — and he may take over for left tackle entirely.
Past that, I could see LA waiting on a running back on day two or three of the draft or in free agency, where they’re often not too expensive. They could bring back Melvin Gordon on a modest deal or consider options like Kenyan Drake, Jordan Howard, Kareem Hunt, Chris Thompson, Peyton Barber, or other. There’s plenty.
At that point, I think the Chargers would be in a much better position to groom a young quarterback that they draft or even to not put too much pressure on themselves to find that player until 2021.
QB - Anyone
RB - Chris Thompson
FLEX - Austin Ekeler
WR - Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Devin Funchess (26 years old, free agent, cheap)
TE - Hunter Henry
LT - Russell Okung
LG - Brandon Scherff
C - Mike Pouncey
RG - Forrest Lamp
RT - Halapoulivaati Vaitai (27 years old, free agent, I didn’t want to be greedy with Conklin)
If the team didn’t want to just go with Taylor and Easton Stick, there should be a higher-than-normal number of available QBs with experience who you don’t mind failing out there: Marcus Mariota, Case Keenum, Josh McCown, Josh Rosen, Joe Flacco, Jacoby Brissett, Mitchell Trubisky among others. (My list of potentially available QBs.)
“Ken, I hate you. You’ve just said in writing, plain as day, that you WANT Marcus Mariota to be the starter of the Chargers and that you clearly BELIEVE that he is a QBOTF and the best player in the NFL. You’re CRAZY!”
No, this is what you consider if you want to wait until 2021 to find your QB. I simply believe that you should always be trying to win games and never “tanking” and so would I rather have Taylor and Stick or would I rather throw in a third QB to the competition that could give them additional security — or even a player who you don’t mind seeing go down in flames?
When Pete Carroll came to the Seahawks in 2010, his plan was clearly to take low level shots at QBs and hope that one of them blossomed into a franchise player. He didn’t want to draft one high — though to be fair, he never really had the opportunity outside of taking Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick near the end of round one in 2011. Instead he traded for Charlie Whitehurst from the Chargers, then signed Tarvaris Jackson away from the Vikings, and then when those two failed to impress, signed Matt Flynn and used a third round pick on a QB from Wisconsin.
He added four QBs in three years and while the Flynn contract is often incorrectly touted as a massive waste of money ($10 million guaranteed, big whoop), these were all shots that cost the organization very little and had low risks. This method can fail and if it hadn’t been for Russell Wilson, maybe Seattle fires Carroll after 2012. But it didn’t fail and so unless you feel very strongly about a QB at six, I think it’s better to build up the players around the QB.
As is often noted, Wilson came into a good situation with the Seahawks defense. The Chargers can make the offense look pretty good with improvement on the offensive line, retaining Henry, and adding a weapon or two. As it stands, I think they’re only a few moves away from having a much better supporting cast for the QB, even if it’s a downgraded “supporting cast” for the other players.
Should the Chargers prioritize upgrading at QB or focus on the supporting cast first?
This poll is closed