What is Melvin Ingram worth to the LA Chargers? They’d already decided years ago to pay him a $14 million base salary in 2020 — making him the highest paid player on the team this season — but will that be enough for Ingram given that he’s a free agent after the year? And that none of his base salary is guaranteed right now?
Ingram wasn’t practicing with the team on Friday and there is no known injury he’s dealing with. When asked for the reason as to why, head coach Anthony Lynn only said that is is due to “company business.”
Ingram, 31, has spent all eight of his NFL seasons with the Chargers and he’s been to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three. Since 2015, Ingram has totaled 43 sacks, 60 tackles for a loss, and 92 QB hits over 77 games. He hadn’t missed a game in any season between 2015 and 2018, then missed three last year with a hamstring injury.
But even though Ingram may not have 10 years left in the tank, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that he has at least three. Many pass rushers of similar productiveness have been effective past 31 in recent years:
- Calais Campbell joined the Jaguars at 31, making first team all-pro in 2017
- Everson Griffen just made his fourth Pro Bowl at the age of 32
- Michael Bennett made the Pro Bowl at age 31 and 32
- Cam Wake had 49 sacks between ages 31 and 35
That being said, not all are so fortunate and the older a player gets, the less likely it is that teams will continue to take chances on them if injuries do enter the picture. Ingram’s career could go in any number of directions, including being a productive and important member of the Chargers defense — as is planned in 2020.
Beyond that could get tricky, especially if Ingram did want an answer right now as to if LA will plan to extend him or guarantee his base salary.
The Chargers have cap space in 2021 — they’ve got $40 million less in liabilities even after Joey Bosa’s contract extension — but Ingram’s not the only pending free agent. LA must also weigh the importance of keeping tight end Hunter Henry, receiver Keenan Allen, center Mike Pouncey, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, cornerback Desmond King, tackle Sam Tevi, linebacker Denzel Perryman, guards Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp, and more.
The going rate for a 32-year-old pass rusher could be any number of things, but anywhere from $10.5 million (Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Justin Houston range) to $14 million (Robert Quinn, Whitney Mercilus) seems probable. More than anything though, maybe Ingram just wants some guarantees. Otherwise, he may put himself in the best position to play out this year, play well, and enter free agency with an even better resume than what he has coming off of 2019.
I don’t see Ingram asking for or getting more than $15 million annually, but even two-thirds that could be more than they can afford after next season.