FanPost

2021 Chargers Roster Thoughts - Post Draft

This is my firth fan post about the 2021 Chargers, following these:

This post follows my usual pattern, so let's get to it.

Active Contracts

According to Spotrac, the Chargers have 70 players under contract for 2021. I ususally trust OverThe Cap a bit more than Spotrac, but OTC is not yet updated, and they usually end up very close, anyway. Here they are, along with their cap hits:

Pos Name Cap Hit
DE Joey Bosa $20,750,000
WR Keenan Allen $15,700,000
WR Mike Williams $15,680,000
DT Linval Joseph $11,900,000
CB Chris Harris $11,250,000
LT Bryan Bulaga $11,083,333
C Corey Linsley $6,600,000
CB Michael Davis $6,400,000
QB Justin Herbert $6,040,626
RB Austin Ekeler $5,750,000
RT Matt Feiler $5,000,000
TE Jared Cook $4,500,000
S Derwin James $3,941,942
DT Jerry Tillery $3,115,134
LT Rashawn Slater $3,023,956 (R)
ILB Kenneth Murray $2,948,850
DT Justin Jones $2,396,535
ILB Kyzir White $2,346,611
OLB Uchenna Nwosu $1,832,595
T Oday Aboushi $1,600,000
OLB Kyler Fackrell $1,500,000
CB Ryan Smith $1,500,000
CB Asante Samuel Jr. $1,313,262 (R)
S Nasir Adderley $1,290,576
K Michael Badgley $1,100,000
RT Trey Pipkins $1,069,269
OLB Drue Tranquill $1,014,702
C Scott Quessenberry $991,063
RB Josh Kelley $975,085
CB Brandon Facyson $945,000
TE Stephen Anderson $920,000
RB Justin Jackson $920,000
QB Easton Stick $919,391
WR Josh Palmer $915,174 (R)
OLB Emeke Egbule $889,091
TE Tre McKitty $870,154 (R)
DT Cortez Broughton $869,505
WR Joe Reed $865,077
QB Chase Daniel $850,000
P Lac Edwards $850,000
CB Tevaughn Campbell $850,000
WR Jalen Guyton $850,000
P Ty Long $850,000
LS Cole Mazza $850,000
WR Jason Moore $850,000
DE Chris Rumph III $848,386 (R)
S Alohi Gilman $827,051
WR K.J. Hill $806,207
LB Cole Christiansen $780,000
DE Joe Gaziano $780,000
G Ryan Hunter $780,000
WR Tyron Johnson $780,000
DE Jessie Lemonier $780,000
TE Gabe Nabers $780,000
G Storm Norton $780,000
TE Donald Parham $780,000
T Tyree St. Louis $780,000
OL Brenden Jaimes $739,449 (R)
LB Nick Niemann $713,500 (R)
RB Larry Rountree III $703,940 (R)
S Mark Webb $685,022 (R)
RB Darius Bradwell $660,000
CB John Brannon $660,000
DT Breiden Fehoko $660,000
G Nate Gilliam $660,000
WR John Hurst $660,000
DT T.J. Smith $660,000
TE Matt Sokol $660,000
CB Donte Vaughn $660,000
K Tristan Vizcaino $660,000
$184,960,486

This list does not yet include the UDFAs the Chargers signed after the draft.

Eliminations

For purposes of this post, I'm going to make some assumptions.

I think this roster is strong enough that I can reasonably assume none of the UDFAs signed to date but not listed above will make the final roster.

I think these players are offseason/camp fodder, and I do not expect them to make the final 2021 roster:
  1. RB Bradwell
  2. CB Brannon
  3. LB Christiansen
  4. P Edwards
  5. G Gilliam
  6. G Hunter
  7. WR Hurst
  8. DT T.J. Smith
  9. TE Sokol
  10. CB Vaughn
  11. PK Vizcaino
I see these guys as bubble players who have to battle to make the final roster:
  • WR - Reed, Hill, Moore - While it is not typical for the Chargers to bail on draft picks after one season in recent years, IMO the addition of Palmer with the 77th pick in the draft means at least two of these guys will not make the final roster.
  • TE/FB - Nabers - Not sure if the new coaches will see him as a fit, and he was not good on special teams last season. I suspect the addition of McKitty with the 97th pick in the draft pushes him off the roster.
  • Edge - Gaziano, Lemonier - Can Gaziano play DE in Staley's scheme? Can Lemonier play OLB? I was skeptical that either of these guys will make the final roster even before the draft, and now the team has invested a 4th round pick in Rumph, which makes it even less likely either can make it, even though both played reasonably well in very limited snaps last season.
  • IDL - Broughton, Fehoko - Fehoko played just 19 unmemorable snaps, and I don't think he makes it. Broughton only played 94 snaps, but he showed some promise; however, given the 3-4 principles of Staley's defense, is Broughton big enough to play inside? The Chargers web site puts his weight at 293 lbs, which is at least 25 lbs lighter than the average NFL nose tackle. Is that weight outdated (e.g., from the draft)? Or could Broughton play DE in Staley's scheme?
  • LB - Egbule - He played backup SAM last year, but only had 35 snaps. He was not very good at special teams. Can he play 3-4 OLB?
  • S - Gilman - Terrible on special teams last season, and the team chose to sign Watkins and Addae during the season rather than play him on defense. He also seems like a box safety, which doesn't fit the team's bigger need for free safety play beyond just Adderley. Telesco was vocal about needing better special teams players, so it would seem foolish to keep a player essentially just for special teams who is bad at it. However, the team has no depth at safety right now, which probably means Gilman will make it, unless the team signs a veteran.
It would be ideal if most of these players did not make the final roster. For now, I'm going to assume Reed, Broughton, and Gilman will make it and the rest do not. This assumption that the others do not make it drops my veteran final roster players count down to 52 players:

Pos Name Cap Hit
DE Joey Bosa $20,750,000
WR Keenan Allen $15,700,000
WR Mike Williams $15,680,000
DT Linval Joseph $11,900,000
CB Chris Harris $11,250,000
LT Bryan Bulaga $11,083,333
C Corey Linsley $6,600,000
CB Michael Davis $6,400,000
QB Justin Herbert $6,040,626
RB Austin Ekeler $5,750,000
RT Matt Feiler $5,000,000
TE Jared Cook $4,500,000
S Derwin James $3,941,942
DT Jerry Tillery $3,115,134
LT Rashawn Slater $3,023,956 (R)
ILB Kenneth Murray $2,948,850
DT Justin Jones $2,396,535
ILB Kyzir White $2,346,611
OLB Uchenna Nwosu $1,832,595
T Oday Aboushi $1,600,000
OLB Kyler Fackrell $1,500,000
CB Ryan Smith $1,500,000
CB Asante Samuel Jr. $1,313,262 (R)
S Nasir Adderley $1,290,576
K Michael Badgley $1,100,000
RT Trey Pipkins $1,069,269
OLB Drue Tranquill $1,014,702
C Scott Quessenberry $991,063
RB Josh Kelley $975,085
CB Brandon Facyson $945,000
TE Stephen Anderson $920,000
RB Justin Jackson $920,000
QB Easton Stick $919,391
WR Josh Palmer $915,174 (R)
TE Tre McKitty $870,154 (R)
DT Cortez Broughton $869,505
WR Joe Reed $865,077
QB Chase Daniel $850,000
CB Tevaughn Campbell $850,000
WR Jalen Guyton $850,000
P Ty Long $850,000
LS Cole Mazza $850,000
DE Chris Rumph III $848,386 (R)
S Alohi Gilman $827,051
WR Tyron Johnson $780,000
G Storm Norton $780,000
TE Donald Parham $780,000
T Tyree St. Louis $780,000
OL Brenden Jaimes $739,449 (R)
LB Nick Niemann $713,500 (R)
RB Larry Rountree III $703,940 (R)
S Mark Webb $685,022 (R)
$171,725,188

Practice Squad and Injury Replacements

Next, I will account for the practice squad:
  1. The current practice squad rules for 2021 allow teams to have 12 practice squad players. In 2020, the NFL increased that to 16 due to COVID, but I will assume that 2021 stays at 12.
  2. Depending on how many accrued seasons a PS player has, he earns either $9,200 or $14K per week. I'm going to assume the Chargers have a full practice squad of players without enough accrued games/seasons to qualify for the higher salary (i.e., all at $9,200 per week).
  3. However, the new CBA allows 2 PS players to be activated every week, and those players get paid at NFL minimum salary level. I will conservatively assume the Chargers activate 2 players for all 17 games. That means effectively 2 of the 12 PS player slots will cost $632,533 each (17/18ths of NFL 2021 minimum salary of $660K plus $9,200 for the bye week).
  4. Accounting for all of that results in a total cost of $3,252,266 for the practice squad.
The team will also need to reserve some cap space for 2021 in season injury replacements. I can't see that being less than $2M, and IMO it is more likely to be higher. I will be more conservative and assume they reserve $3M.

Functional Salary Cap Space Available to Spend

Now, taking all of that into account, I can determine an estimate of the team's functionally availble cap space based on these facts and assumptions:
  1. The 2021 salary cap has been set at $182.5M.
  2. Spotrac shows that the Chargers have a total of $9.23M from 2020 rollover and adjustments, making their franchise 2021 cap $191.73M.
  3. Spotrac and OTC both also show dead money at $2,058,008.
  4. The 52 players under contract that I am counting toward the 2021 roster have a combined cap hit of $171,725,188; the practice squad will have an estimated cap hit of $3,252,266; and I estimate the team will reserve at least $3M for 2021 in season injury replacements.
  5. Do the math, and that leaves about $11.7M in 2021 cap space available to spend, with 52 roster spots accounted for (43 veterans and 9 rookie draft picks).
This provides a starting point to discuss future roster and free agent decisions.

Roster Check

Here is how those 52 players break down positionally:

Offense (27):
  • QB (3) - Herbert, Daniel, Stick
  • RB (4) - Ekeler, Kelley, Jackson, Rountree (R)
  • FB (0) -
  • WR (6) - Allen, Williams, Guyton, Johnson, Palmer (R), Reed
  • TE (4) - Cook, Parham, Anderson, McKitty (R)
  • OL (10) - LT Slater (R), LG Feiler, C Linsley, RG Aboushi, RT Bulaga, T/G Norton, T/G Jaimes (R), T Pipkins, C/G Quessenberry, T/G St. Louis
Defense (22):
  • DL (5) - Bosa, Joseph, Tillery, Jones, Broughton
  • LB (7) - Nwosu, Fackrell, Murray, Tranquill, White, Rumph (R), Niemann (R)
  • CB (6) - Davis, Harris, Samuel (R), Facyson, Smith, Campbell
  • S (4) - James, Adderley, Gilman, Webb (R)
Special Teams (3):
  • PK (1) - Badgley
  • P (1) - Long
  • LS (1) - Mazza
Comments on that nucleus:
  • The OL is seemingly in a better state than it has been in many years, maybe (hopefully) in more than a decade. The signings of Linsley, Feiler, and Aboushi plus drafting Slater and Jaimes seems to have turned the team's weakest position group into an above average unit. Of course we need to see that come together on the field, but I am very impressed with the team's decision-making here, especially that they cut ties with most of the unit from 2020, including 4 starters.
  • There is an imbalance shown above. The team cannot reasonably carry 27 players on offense.
    • I expect the team to keep 9 OL. Looking at this group, St. Louis would seem to be the most likely to be the odd man out, but it will depend on how the new coaching staff will evaluate Norton, Pipkins, and St. Louis.
    • I think the team should strongly consider cutting Stick and adding him to the practice squad. With no playing time in 2019-2020 and no preseason games in 2020, teams have seen nothing on him to have a compelling reason to sign him off the Chargers' practice squad. Meanwhile, there has now been an influx of two more QB draft classes into the league since Stick's class. Furthermore, the team can use the rule enabling them to activate two practice squad players every week to activate him as a 54th roster spot in any/every week. All that said, I'm skeptical the team will do this.
    • If they keep Stick, that would seem to mean that one of these guys would have to go: RB Jackson, WR Reed, or TE Anderson. Given the Rams and Saints influences on the coaching staff (i.e., expecting more 2 TE sets), I think WR Reed might be the most likely to go from this group. Interested in other thoughts on this.
  • Good defensive nucleus in place, but only 10 easily identifiable starters.
    • Staley seemed very high on Tillery in his press conference on April 7, so it seems like he will get the nod to start opposite Bosa at DE, with Jones and Broughton providing DL depth.
    • I assume Murray and Tranquill start at ILB, with Nwosu taking one OLB spot and rotating with Fackrell and Rumph standing up opposite Bosa, with neither of them spending much time in coverage.
    • Will the second OLB primarily stand up on the line or line up a bit more like a 4-3 WLB? If the former, maybe Fackrell starts and White is ILB depth. If the latter, maybe White starts? This is the LB position likely to see the fewest snaps, so it is okay to have a weaker option here. I don't know much about Niemann, but he seems like a special teams pick who isn't likely to crack the defensive rotation as a rookie.
    • Staley was also very positive about Adderley during that press conference on April 7, and it seems like he is the starting FS by default at this point.
    • Entering the draft, I thought safety was the third biggest weakness on the roster, since it is a premium position in Staley's defense, James has had trouble staying healthy, and Adderley has been inconsistent at best to date. As I mentioned previously, Gilman does not seem like a particularly good fit as the primary depth player behind James and Adderley. I was surprised the team did not address it until the 7th round of the draft, and I think the team should attempt to sign a veteran player there.
    • PFF graded Campbell as the worst CB on the Chargers roster last season. Out of 141 CBs who played at least 200 defensive snaps last season, Campbell graded out as #102. He started off as the 5th corner but played 326 snaps due to the King trade and injuries to Hayward and Harris. Given that context, his performance was fine, but I would hope his snaps would be reduced, not expanded. Maybe the new coaching staff can coach him up.
    • Facyson only played 49 snaps on defense last season, and he was not very good. All the snaps given to Campbell despite his performance seems to show that the previous coaching staff didn't trust Facyson to play much. In his career to date, he has proven to be a good run defender but weak in coverage. Again, maybe the new coaching staff can coach him up.
    • Smith only played 3 snaps on defense last season and 51 in the 2019 season. In the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he played more than 1000 combined snaps on defense, and he wasn't very good, which seems to be why Tampa moved him almost exclusively to special teams. He appears to be a good run defender, but poor at tackling and poor in coverage. So I'm guessing the team views him more as a special teams player than a player expected to play much on defense.
    • The previous three points show that the Chargers could have a weakness after their top 3 corners. I suppose that is true for most/all teams, though. Just have to hope for good health for Harris and Davis in particular, since those two stand to get the most snaps.
  • Given that I have identified just 52 players, with a need to move at least 2 roster spots from offense to defense, I seem to be 3 defensive players short.
  • If, as I suggested above, St. Louis and Reed don't make the final roster, that removes $1.645M from the cap, meaning the Chargers would have about $13.3M in available cap space to fill those spots. However, I suspect Telesco will be conservative enough not to spend it all. He may want to roll most of it into 2022 to help with James' 5th year option, a possible Mike Williams contract, etc. Still, $13.3M is a lot at this point of the offseason, and he should have no problem filling those last 3 spots.
Draft

As posted in the draft threads over the past few days, IMO:
  1. The first two rounds played out perfectly. Top two needs addressed with excellent value players at those picks. Samuel may have fallen slightly, but I expect Staley and his staff to help him to be a very good NFL player.
  2. Both 3rd round picks were reaches, fitting the team's usual 3rd round pattern, but I also think both can be good players in time.
  3. Rumph and Jaimes were good value selections in the 4th and 5th who can at least provide valuable depth at their positions.
  4. The 6th and 7th picks seem to have at least strong special teams potential.
Overall, this was a very good draft, and it could turn out to be Telesco's best. I'm sure not every player will hit, but there is a lot of strong potential. This just goes to show how useful it is to acquire extra picks and resist the temptation to trade up and give any away. Having 7 picks in the last 5 rounds makes it much more likely the team will hit on at least a few.

Remaining Needs

When I made those first two posts, the OL was a complete disaster. It has been transformed.

In my earlier posts, I assumed Hayward and Jenkins would be back, and both are gone. Samuel helps to offset Hayward, but safety now seems like the highest priority to find in free agency. That should be 1 of the 3 defensive positions I'm not showing as fully addressed yet.

The team also did not address DL in the draft. I know Tillery and Bosa can both move around, but I expect both of them to play more at DE than DT. Joseph is turning 33 in October, so there is some risk that his workload might need to be limited in some way, and Jones and Broughton are the only other players I'm showing here. Does that mean I was wrong about Fehoko? Even if so, I think a veteran is needed here. That should be at least 1 of the 3 defensive positions I'm not showing as fully addressed yet... and maybe 2, given that Broughton is so inexperienced.

Pass rush is another area that could be improved. But it is at least possible that Staley and the rest of the new coaches can get more out of the likes of Tillery, Jones, and Broughton, plus new signee Fackrell. I'm not counting on a lot from 4th rounder Rumph in his rookie season, but he could surprise and make a positive impact. I also think the team could still sign a veteran to help in this area as well.

I also had the question about who will play the second OLB spot above. I assume they will solve that with one of the players I am already showing above, but I suppose it is not out of the realm of possibility that the team could sign another player there, and depending on how that second OLB is to be used, that might just go to my previous point about pass rush.

Conclusion

This roster has been positively transformed since I began this series of posts. I am more optimistic than I have been in a couple of years about this roster and the team's prospects in 2021. Still some work to do on the defensive roster, but it all seems pretty easily achievable.

Thoughts?

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.