What a start to the season the Chargers have had, and how bright does the future look.
Staley has created a whole new culture in the Bolt's locker room, one of accountability, trust and player empowerment. The offensive line is looking like the strongest line we have seen in over a decade, and even Zeus himself showed up on national television to give everyone an awe-inspiring display of the power the Charger's namesake holds. Needless to say, the figurative electricity surrounding this stud QB, up-and-coming coach, and stellar team became very literal Monday Night!
Now, our coaching staff and players have a responsibility to take this season game by game, and we certainly don't want them losing focus. But as fans who don't get to suit up and fight for our team, year around armchair management is a year-round job and its is never too early to look ahead and share visions of the direction we hope the team is going.
With that said, this post will be looking into:
- Which players are in contract years, and how they are performing relative to their contracts
- Who we should attempt to resign, and which players might net us a comp pick
- Which players are in danger of being on the move next year
- Where our cap space sits after resigns/cuts
- What FA's we can potentially target. We'll save the Mock Drafts for another date!
Players With Contracts Expiring in 2022...
With their 2021 Cap Hit, 2021 PFF grade and projected market as of 10/5/21 (Projected Market provided by the OTC Valuation Model, which grades a players present-day value by valuing their performance vs the market for their position) These figures are as given from OTC, and OTC uses PFF data for their valuations. Some of the valuations I agree with, some I do not.
In looking at the above data, we can derive a couple things:
Players to retain
- Mike Williams is our biggest mystery this offseason. He has finally made his case as a WR1. The Chargers have a difficult decision on their hands - the coaching staff loves him, and TT loves to resign his draft picks that perform. However, only one 1st round pick of TT's has received a second contract, so I would almost expect TT to really try and retain him. As we will see below, TT left little dead money in the backend of Keenan's contract, so the concerns of paying top dollar for two WR's may be short lived. I believe his contract ends up looking just like Galladay's, right around 18mil/year. He could be franchise tagged for $19,127,000 as well, which at leas gives some leverage in striking a deal. If we can't make a deal work, he is very likely to net us a 4th round comp pick, potentially even a third.
- Kyzir, Uchenna, Justin Jones, Parham, Guyton, Covington, Campbell, Norton, Overton, Q-Berry, Merrill, and Cook are the guys I believe we attempt to retain, for similar contracts at what they are making now. I see Uchenna and Jones as likely to get a bump of about an extra $1,000,000. Campbell, Parham, Merrill, Guyton, and Norton will all be ERFA's on vet min deals... I hope to see them all back.
Players likely on the move
- If Linval Joseph returns next year, it's likely for around half of his current cap hit. Anything above $5-6mil/year will be very hard to justify unless he starts making a larger impact. For now I'm expecting he does not return.
- Oday looks overvalued by OTC's metrics, but he HAS been a large upgrade from our best offensive line performers last year, and has had abysmal play to his right side all season. If we can retain him, great, but if he continues he could be our first example of an offensive lineman benefitting from our upgraded line and stellar QB play that fills in as our 5th piece, plays much better on a team that wins some games, and goes off to get paid. I would not be surprised if he signs elsewhere for $5-6mil... TT and the coaching staff is going to have to evaluate how much he was benefitting from Linsley and thus how replaceable he might be.
- Fackrell could be in a similar situation as Oday, but on the defensive side.
- Harris might be the only other player besides Fackrell, Oday, and Joseph to potentially contribute to the comp formula by signing with other teams for a reasonable amount. As such, when our acquisitions are taking into account I don't believe we'll net any comp picks in 2023. Since you can't get less than "zero" comp picks, you might as well splurge in one year, and sprinkle in some 1 and 2 year deals for some players with upside that can positive effect our comp formula in future off-season's.
Players on Contract in 2022
Below is a chart of the 32 players we have on contract next season, along with their base salary, cap hits, and savings if we were to cut them after June 1st, or trade them before June 1st. There would be additional savings for most if they were traded after June 1st, but if we were eying a trade it would be great to do so before the draft.
*Info on chart provided by overthecap.com
From this list, I gather:
- One player is destined to either be cut or asked to take a sizable pay cut... assuming he doesn't retire altogether. I believe everyone is of the same opinion that Brian Bulaga is no where near worth the $10,750,000 we could be saving if we let him go. Wish you could stay healthy Brian, but we're not willing to bet our season on it. OTC has his valuation at $6,706,000 which is still too rich for my taste, unless he comes back soon and finishes the season healthy and performing.
- Michael Davis's contract only guaranteed him one season on this roster. So far, his PFF grade of 48.6 is 92 out of 108 CB's... but by the eye test he hasn't seemed that bad (at least from what I've seen). He is certainly someone to keep an eye on, because with a potential to save over 7mil on the cap if released, he could certainly be someone we move off of.
- Trey Pipkins has seemingly lost his swing tackle job, his "6th lineman" role, and has been absolute trash for this new coaching staff. I expect him to be released.
- Lastly, in looking over these contracts I believe Keenan Allen's contract (not Keenan himself, just his contract) can essentially be viewed as tradeable this offseason, and then he is playing in contract years for the remainder of his contract. Let's break down Keenan's contract a little more.
Could the Emergence of Mike Williams Push Keenan Out the Door?
This is hard for me to write, as Keenan is one of my favorite players and one of the three jerseys I own. It's important to point out that we can still afford to keep him, but I do think his play will be scrutinized if Williams keeps performing at a high level and he continues to have games where loud mistakes are occurring like big drops or tripping on routes.
Please understand that I am not writing about what I want to happen, but what I think is more of a possibility than we believe based on how this contract is written.
*Chart provided by Overthecap.com
Keenan is still a great player, and has value should the team attempt to trade him. If they were to trade him this offseason before the draft, we could likely get at least a 3rd round pick for him and save $11,100,000 on the cap next year, much more in the following two years. I believe the more likely scenario is they keep the Williams/Allen train going for one more year, and view Allen as a guy in his contract year from '22-'24. His cap savings in the last two years of his deal average out to about 21mil if cut post-June1st of 2023... so that makes him very expendable if his play drops off. Perhaps we get lucky and Allen restructures for more guaranteed money, but I am definitely going to watch his play a little more closely now and hope he returns to his stellar form.
The offseason craziness of keeping Williams at his 5th year option price of nearly 16mil and drafting Palmer is starting to make sense. Keenan's contract is basically designed with a ripcord after this year should Mike Williams AND/OR Joshua Palmer take off and make him expendable. Hopefully he returns to form soon... as long as Herbie is on his rookie deal we CAN make these contracts work as long as he keeps performing.
It's fair to note that Keenan's current valuation is $16,080,000 on OTC, which is on pace for his current cap hit... but if some of his recent and arguably blown out of proportion struggles continue and he shows signs of regression, that contract will become an albatross quickly.
2022 Projected Roster
I haven't gone through and done position-by-position evaluations yet and starting 22 projections... many of these depth pieces are likely to be gone and filled in by someone else, so my focus was just to guesstimate how much salary cap we can expect to play with next year. I didn't rack my brain too hard to come up with the new contracts, outside of Mike who I think lines up with Galladay. Everyone else got close to their last contract, aside from the younger guys that haven't quite earned a pay bump but still got slight raises for coming out of their rookie deal. ERFA's were given the vet min given their tenure.
Dead Cap players have been designated with Raiders colors, since that's apparently Florida for Chargers cast-offs. Happy Retirement Pipkins!
After you consider our rollover from this year to be approximately $11,800,000, we are looking at about $42,000,000 to spend, including approximately $4,000,000 set aside for practice squad and injuries.
Most Charger fans would likely agree that our greatest needs right now are Right Tackle, Right Guard, and Defensive Tackle. Cornerback is another position that could definitely benefit from some depth, and we actually have some positional flexibility next year with Feiler being an option at RT, which would then necessitate another G.
I'm not going to lie - I haven't done a ton or research into the whole FA class next year. Maybe it's fear of older FA DT's not living up to expectations in the past, but I really did not feel good about the names I was seeing at the DT position, and wasn't overwhelming confident in the CB position. In looking at the incoming free agents, it is definitely my preference to prioritize a stud G like Scherff or Tomlinson, or perhaps both and move Feiler to RT. Paring David Q-Berry up with his brother (I actually played freshman football with David) would be an awesome homecoming for a player who had his career put on hold for years because of cancer.
Either way, a couple suggested targets that amount to nothing more than darts thrown at the board right now :
Our roster is looking much more "complete" than in years past. I previously described my definition of success for this season as seeing Staley command a new culture with the team that they buy into, and establishing 3 out of 5 core offensive lineman that will be here for Herbert's rookie contract, and keep him upright, healthy, and confident. Both of these goals were accomplished in a big way. Now that we are in a position to truly compete, my wish list for next season is as follows:
- Sign one of the top Guard options early in FA.
- Replace Bulaga by either draft, free agent signing, or moving Feiler to RT.
- Give Jaimes a chance to win a G job if Feiler bounces out, but don't hesitate to double dip in FA.
- Target RT/G, DT, CB in the draft. Edge rusher should be considered a luxury, only pursue TE if there is a true BPA at TE in the mid/late rounds.
- Understand the comp formula; with so few players leaving in FA we are unlikely to net comp picks, so be very aggressive in building depth on both side of the ball from FA this season. Key "core" players should be signed to 3+ year deals with cap hits pushed out, but also bring in rotational players/fringe starters on short contracts that will have their most productive season(s) with us to depart in a year or two in FA.
- Try to build around the Mike Williams/Keenan Allen combo, but also prepare Palmer for an eventual starting role.
- Keep Davis until we find a suitable replacement.
- Understand that this (2022) is a legitimate Super Bowl window, and don't hesitate to make a move or two that shows we are trying to WIN NOW. A high-priced vet on a short contract next year in a position of need would not be the worst thing (Stephen Gilmore?).