The Chargers made their second signing of the legal tampering period when they agreed to a two-year, $17 million deal with former Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
Linval spent the first four years of his career with the New York Giants (2010-2013) before signing with the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2014 season. After playing in just six games his rookie year in New York, Joseph has gone on to start every single game he’s played in since.
While with the Vikings he was voted to the pro bowl on two different occasions and made a name for himself as one of the most dominant run-stopping defensive tackles in the NFL. His 2015 and 2017 seasons were the best of his career, earning overall grades of 91.0 and 90.0, respectively. In the last two seasons, Joseph has regressed back to grades of 73.7 and 71.2 in ‘18 and ‘19. The good news about those numbers is that they are both a still higher than any of the grades put out by a Chargers defensive tackle this past season.
The Chargers still have younger guys in the mix with 2018 third-rounder Justin Jones and last year’s first-round pick Jerry Tillery. While Justin Jones has already made some decent progress in his development the last two years, Tillery will need to take a massive leap forward after grading-out as PFF’s worst player at his position with a 34.0 overall grade. Adding Joseph adds the veteran presence Tom Telesco always wants in his younger position while getting a proven guy with an infectious personality that will surely be a hit in the locker room.
You guys remember this moment? It’s when I personally became a fan of his.
Linval Joseph needed some air after that Big Man TD— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 7, 2018
I mean, who wouldn’t want a teammate like this?
Get you a teammate like Linval Joseph— ESPN (@espn) December 29, 2019
(via @thecheckdown) pic.twitter.com/XpteHqxbue
Joseph is not going to be an every-down player for the Chargers. He played only 553 snaps in 2019 which was just over 50%. He did miss three games to injury so it’s likely his final numbers were closer to 60%, and that’s just fine. Tillery, Jones, Brandon Mebane, and Damion Square all played in a heavy rotation because Bradley has always liked keeping guys fresh. It’s what he did back in Seattle and it’s what he’s done in Los Angeles. Joseph will be the team’s primary nose tackle on obvious run downs and may get some play in some passing situations unless Jones and Tillery make that hard for the team to do.
At 6’4 and 330 pounds, he’s got a combination of size and length that no one else has along the defensive line. Throughout his career, he’s also been known as one of the best tacklers at his position. That should be music to Chargers’ fans ears after what they had to sit through in 2019.
Here’s some praise by Brandon Thorn from The Athletic who is widely considered one of the best evaluators of talent on both sides of the trenches:
Just finishing up a second review of Linval Joseph's season, only this time I made some cut-ups. When I graded Joseph after the season, I gave him the highest tackling grade out of 104 DTs. Not only an elite run-defender holding the point/controlling the LOS, but also in pursuit: pic.twitter.com/szpAIevAkj— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) July 13, 2018
You don’t often see guys pushing 330 pounds willing to run from the far hash mark to make tackles. Joseph just has a different mindset, one that is rare and should be coveted. Also, whether the offense is running towards or away from him, he fights like hell to not let opposing blockers cross his face. He gets on his horse, keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, and makes sure the running back has no shot at cutting runs back against the grain.
Joseph is going to be a good player for the Chargers. While he might not be “great” or bounce back to his prime, he plays a role that the Chargers have needed to fill for a long time. Everyone should be excited about this signing and have even more optimism for this defense going forward.