In his short four years in the NFL, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley has had the opportunity to work with a wealth of elite defensive players in the NFL. Guys like Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Jalen Ramsey, and Aaron Donald.
But aside from the obvious standouts, Staley’s had the chance to work with a good amount of talent role-players. These are players who aren’t the biggest names on their respective teams, but it hasn’t stopped them from popping on film and making significant impacts of their own.
Below, I’ll be discussing four of those notable players who will be free agents this offseason, all of which will have an opportunity to land back with Coach Staley once free agency kicks off in a little less than a month’s time.
Let’s get into it.
DT Shelby Harris - Denver Broncos
Harris has been an unsung hero for the Broncos over the past few seasons as a rotational player-turned-starter prior to the 2019 season. He started all 16 games two years ago en route to posting career highs in tackles (49), sacks (6.0), and pass deflections at the line (nine). Despite missing five games to injury in 2020, Harris still finished with 32 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks, and seven more pass deflections.
As a defensive tackle, those sack numbers are fairly respectable but it’s his ability to get his hands into passing lanes and disrupt the game in his own way that makes him an undervalued player at the position. I mean, 16 pass deflections is solid for a defensive back over a two-year span. For a defensive tackle? It’s downright elite.
Another defensive lineman to rotate in with Joseph, Tillery, and Jones isn’t that high on the team’s list of needs, but the opportunity to add great depth that also has familiarity with the system should never be outright ignored.
DL Roy Robertson-Harris - Chicago Bears
To me, Robertson-Harris continues with the “unsung hero” narrative that I discussed with Harris above. His stats aren’t all that impressive (zero sacks in eight games this past season) but he’s always been a guy that popped whenever I happened to be watching the Bears the past two to three seasons. He’s got a notable motor and always seemed to stand out in his limited snaps.
His averages of 2.5 tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks over the past four seasons isn’t bad for a rotational player. In fact, it’s right on par or better than the early career averages of both Jerry Tillery (2.5/3.0) and Justin Jones (0.75/2.33).
Again, this would be in a rotational role For Robertson-Harris. The 28-year old would be a veteran in the system that could help streamline learning within the position group. Definitely not a priority, but not a bad signing at the right price.
OLB Leonard Floyd - LA Rams
Floyd is probably biggest free agent name to be connected to the Chargers this offseason. It’s well-documented that he had his best season under Staley this past year and the Chargers will be looking to add an impactful player on the edge as veteran Melvin Ingram is not likely to return for 2021.
His official stat line to end 2020 included 10.5 sacks (second behind Aaron Donald) and 11 tackles-for-loss. He also forced a fumble and recovered two others for good measure.
Leonard Floyd beats Bobby Massie like a drum for the sack on third down pic.twitter.com/l27cB0oQgy— PFF (@PFF) October 27, 2020
Floyd signed a one-year, $10 million “prove it” deal with the Rams and he essentially did just that. Now at the peak of his career while looking for a new contract, he’s expected to command a hefty sum. Will the Chargers even be able to contend with other edge-needy teams with a more flexible budget? Possibly, but TT will likely have to find some bad fat to cut beforehand.
CB Darious Williams - LA Rams
Williams joins his joins Floyd as another Rams free agent who will likely garner a ton of interest when things kick off next month. At 26 years old, Williams finally enjoyed a breakout season, leading the Rams with four interceptions during the regular season and taking another pick to the house in the wild card round of the playoffs against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
At 5’9, Williams doesn’t necessarily have the ideal height for the position, but he plays so much larger than his measurements due to uncanny instincts and surprising physicality. Playing as the Rams’ third cornerback, Williams also led the team with a whopping 14 pass breakups in coverage, beating both full-time starters Troy Hill (10) and Pro-Bowler Jalen Ramsey (9).
The addition of Williams to an aging Chargers cornerback group would be huge for a several reasons. First, the Bolts would get an established cornerback already well-versed in Staley’s defense. Second, they would be able to make the group younger without investing a draft pick into a player who may not be as impactful in his first year or two. Being able to pair Williams and Michael Davis with either Casey Hayward or Chris Harris Jr. — I think one of them is gone by next year — in 2021 would set the secondary on the best path moving forward. Add Derwin James back into the mix and the NFL would instantly be put on notice to this insanely talented unit.