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A pair of free agent defensive tackles the Chargers should consider signing

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The Chargers could still use a veteran presence along the interior

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Chargers finally released veteran defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and currently only have three defensive tackles on the team with Damion Square and Sylvester Williams becoming free agents. I believe at least one of those two will get re-signed before things are all said and done but it would probably be in the team’s best interest to sign a veteran to lead the rotation or at least play a primarily role in it.

There are still some notable defensive tackles on the market but I believe the team is in desperate need of finding a true nose tackle for the 2020 season as Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, and Cortez Broughton are all better suited to play the 3-technique, which is used as a penetrating one-gap defender in Gus Bradley’s scheme.

With guys like DJ Reader and Danny Shelton already off the market, here are the two biggest names I think the Chargers should sign in free agency.

Linval Joseph

2019 Season: 13 games / 13 starts - 44 total tackles, six tackles-for-loss, three sacks, one forced fumble

Many in the Vikings community would tell you that Joseph is no longer a viable option along the interior and I personally think that’s a little over-blown. While Linval is now officially on the wrong side of 30, you’d still be hard-pressed to find a player of his size and athleticism that’s still as equally proficient at stopping the run and contributing a pass-rush from the interior.

Joseph posted a 71.2 overall grade during the 2019 regular season. While that’s quite a bit lower than his 90.0 overall grade just two years ago, he still performed much better than anyone currently a part of the Chargers defensive interior. For context, here are the 2019 overall grades for the prominent defensive tackles that played for the Bolts:

  • Branon Mebane - 48.7
  • Justin Jones - 56.8
  • Damion Square - 63.2
  • Sylvester Williams - 67.0
  • Jerry Tillery - 34.0 (Lowest among all defensive tackles in the NFL)

Yeah, I think i’d be pretty content adding someone like Joseph to the defensive line. The Vikings have a few young pieces at defensive tackle right now and it’s not surprising to see them want to get younger at the position while gaining some cap space. With this in mind, you shouldn’t view the release of Joseph from Minnesota as “he’s washed now” because if he’s washed, what does that make the Chargers defensive interior?

Tom Telesco also loves having a veteran presence when he can. I think Joseph can provide that and then some, like this:

Michael Pierce

2019 Season: 14 games / 14 starts - 35 total tackles, two tackles-for-loss, .5 sacks, one fumble recovery

Pierce has been regarded as one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the NFL for years now. Let me tell you, he is as big as advertised. When I went to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama back in 2019, I found him standing around the field with the rest of the spectators at practice. He’s only 6’1 but my goodness did he seem as wide as he was tall.

Pierce is coming off a little bit of a down year in 2019. His 69.0 overall grade was his lowest of his career but he’s only a year removed from a 90.8 overall grade in 2018, good for fifth-best in the league that year. Since coming into the league in 2016, Pierce’s overall grade has steadily climbed each year so I don’t think his recent regression is a cause for much concern. He’s still the same guy who can clog up running lanes and hold the point of attack, something that this defense was missing the last few seasons. A nose tackle that can two-gap and hold double-teams would allow the rest of this defense to flourish. It would allow Jerry Tillery or Justin Jones to take advantage of one-on-one pass-rush situations without having to worry about getting chipped or double-teamed themselves.

Coming off his worst year to date, I think the Chargers would be able to snag Pierce at a bargain price, which has obviously been Telesco’s method over the years. The former Raven is also just 27 years old. There’s still plenty of good football left inside him and to be fair, his “worst” is still pretty good, comparatively.