One more week, time for another update. This is the fourth post in this series; here are the others:
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - Entering Offseason
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - Entering Free Agency
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - 1 Week Into Free Agency
Since my previous post 7 days ago, the Chargers signed two players:
I like the Everett move. He should be a younger, more athletic upgrade on Cook. Given QB Wilson's injury last season in Everett's only season in Seattle, this will be the best passing offense Everett has played in.
I can't say Scott excites me, but "punter other than Ty Long" is a good thing. I hope the Chargers draft Araiza in the 6th round and he beats Scott out for the job on the final roster.
We also saw former Charger LB Kyzir White sign with the Eagles.
I had expected the team would bring White back on a multi-year deal, so I am a bit surprised he signed with the Eagles for just 1 year for up to $5M. The Chargers certainly could have afforded him for that price, and I would have been happy with it.
His performance last season seems to show he would have been worth it. PFF graded 127 LBs who played at least 100 snaps last season. Here are White's grades and where they ranked among that group:
- Overall: 66.5, tied with 3 others for #30-33
- Run Defense: 63.0, #44
- Tackling: 80.7, tied for #12-13
- Pass rush: 73.0, #18
- Coverage: 65.7, #30
White's statistics were pretty impressive:
- He led the Chargers in tackles by a huge margin. He had 107 tackles and 38 assists. The next closest was James, with 76 tackles and 37 assists.
- He led the team with 53 stops. James and Bosa were tied for 2nd on the team with 31 each.
- He was tied with Fackrell for the 6th highest number of QB pressures (12), despite rushing the passer just 41 times.
- Among 8 Chargers who were targeted at least 20 times in coverage, White allowed the 2nd lowest passer rating into his coverage (90.3). Only James (71.9) was better. The others were LB Tranquill (109.1), CB Davis (97.4), CB Samuel (101.0), CB Harris (95.1), CB Campbell (109.1), S Adderley (129.9).
- He forced 2 fumbles, which tied for 3rd on the team, and he had 2 interceptions, which tied for first.
- He was second on the defense in snaps with 979, an average of 57.5 per game. The next highest LB was Tranquill, who played 560.
I had assumed that White was a good fit for Staley's scheme, in part because he played safety in college, so he offered a lot of flexibility to Staley. The metrics above show that he was able to do everything reasonably well - defend the run, tackle, cover, rush the passer. I assumed that flexibility is why he rarely left the field.
So I'm surprised that the Chargers let him go. Like @Michael Peterson wrote:
This move leaves me stumped.
But time to move on, I suppose.
In an ideal situation, Murray would turn around his performance and provide exactly that type of play for Staley to use. If that happened, and also knowing that Staley seems to like Ogbongbemiga, this would work out well. But I just don't see how anyone can have confidence that Murray can do that.
The Chargers currently have 59 players under contract for 2022. I am going to go ahead and apply the same roster exclusions as in my previous post:
- WR Bandy
- Edge Brown
- LB Christiansen
- IDL Davis
- S DeLuca
- LB Egbule
- IDL Fehoko
- WR Ffrench
- CB Hall
- G Hunter
- TE Kampmoyer
- LB Lloyd
- IDL Merrill
- WR Moore
- WR Reed
- RB Rountree
- T Sarell
I think these players are offseason/camp fodder and/or will be beaten out. So I do not expect them to make the final 2021 roster and will exclude them from my final roster projection in this post.
That leaves 42 core veteran players at this time.
Repeating this section verbatim from my previous post.
Per OTC, the Chargers are currently set to have these 2021 draft picks:
- 1.17 (17)
- 3.15 (79)
- 4.18 (123)
- 5.17 (160)
- 6.16 (196)
- 6.37 (215) - compensatory pick
- 7.15 (236)
- 7.34 (254) - compensatory pick
- 7.35 (255) - compensatory pick
- 7.37 (260) - compensatory pick
For purposes of this post, I assume the team will not make any additional trades involving draft picks and will use all of these picks, although this might actually be a year where trading picks makes more sense than in the past, given the high number of picks.
For example, I would love to think the team could trade back a few spots in the first round and pick up a second round pick to replace the one traded for Mack, perhaps bundling 1-2 of the 6th and/or 7th round picks to do it. But I'm not going to assume that, since Telesco has never traded back, only up.
I suppose a trade up could work if the team gave up its 3rd round pick and a 6th to move into the 2nd. But I'm not smart enough about draft pick valuation to know if there is any real viable trade up scenario that would likely appeal to the Chargers and any prospective trade partner. So I'm assuming no more trades for purposes of this exercise.
I think only 2 players Telesco has drafted since 2015 failed to make the final roster in their first season, and both were injured -- Dylan Cantrell and Donovan Clark. I don't see that trend continuing in 2022. I am going to guess that only 8 of 10 picks (if all picks are actually made) will make it. The others might make the practice squad, but I'm not attempting to predict the practice squad here.
For purposes of projecting cap space, I will take the most conservative approach and assume the bottom 2 picks are the ones that don't make it.
Internal Free Agents
In my previous posts, I predicted the team would re-sign these internal free agents:
- WR Williams - re-signed
- WR Guyton - re-signed
- TE Parham - re-signed
- T Norton - re-signed
- QB Daniel - re-signed
- PK Hopkins - re-signed
- G Schofield - TBD
- TE Anderson - TBD
- LB White - wrong; signed with Philly
- C Quessenberry - wrong; signed with Houston
- Edge Nwosu - wrong; signed with Seattle
- IDL Jones - wrong; signed with Chicago
- LS Overton - wrong; replaced with Harris
I also initially predicted re-signing RB Jackson and KR/WR Roberts, but changed that in my second post, thinking instead the team should address that in the draft by taking a player -- RB Bam Knight -- who would handle the roles of both Jackson and Roberts.
I predicted the team would not re-sign these internal free agents, and they have not signed any of them so far, with the exception of Covington:
- TE Cook
- RG Aboushi
- G Kelemete
- Edge Fackrell
- IDL Joseph
- IDL Covington - wrong; re-signed
- CB Harris
- CB Smith
- S Marshall
- P Long
I haven't changed my opinion about the others.
With that, here are the 42 players and 8 draft picks that make up my core working roster IMO, along with their cap hits from OTC:
|Draft Pick 1.17 (17)||$3,031,473|
|CB||Asante Samuel Jr.||$1,641,579|
|Edge||Chris Rumph II||$1,013,385|
|Draft Pick 3.15 (79)||$1,004,435|
|Draft Pick 4.18 (122)||$921,893|
|Draft Pick 5.17 (160)||$798,852|
|Draft Pick 6.16 (194)||$756,780|
|Draft Pick 6.37 (215)||$743,853|
|Draft Pick 7.15 (234)||$734,332|
|Draft Pick 7.34 (253)||$727,665|
Working Roster Breakdown
The core working roster of 40 veteran players (i.e., players under contract less exclusions) looks like this:
- QB (3) - Herbert, Daniel, Stick
- RB (2) - Ekeler, Kelley
- FB (1) - Nabers
- WR (4) - Allen, Williams, Guyton, Palmer
- TE (3) - Everett, Parham, McKitty
- OL (6) - LT Slater, LG Feiler, C Linsley, T Norton, T Pipkins, G Jaimes
- Edge (3) - Bosa, Mack, Rumph
- IDL (5) - Johnson, Joseph-Day, Tillery, Gaziano, Covington
- LB (4) - Tranquill, Murray, Ogbongbemiga, Niemann
- CB (4) - Jackson, Davis, Samuel, Campbell
- S (4) - James, Adderley, Gilman, Webb
Special Teams (2):
- PK (1) - Hopkins
- P (1) - Scott
- LS (1) - Harris
Still a lot of work to do, with needs remaining at:
- OL (2 starters + IOL depth, including at center)
- RB (depth)
- WR (depth)
- LB (starting?)
- Edge (depth)
- CB (depth)
- KR (starting)
That needs list is manageable. Assuming 8 rookies make the final roster, that implies signing at least 3 more free agents, perhaps including some of the internal free agents I predicted previously (e.g., G Schoefield, TE Anderson).
And the team could easily sign more than just 3 free agents. They could easily clear roster spots and improve the team:
- Don't carry a fullback, moving Nabers to the practice squad. I've gone into this before.
- Last season, Nabers only played 47 snaps on offense and was a poor performer. Per PFF, he was the second worst Chargers player graded at run blocking, and he got the lowest pass blocking grade I have ever seen. While he got a good receiving grade, he only caught 3 passes for 17 yards and 0 first downs... no impact.
- In addition, he was a weak special teams player who played just 138 special teams snaps. The team could re-sign Anderson and again carry 4 TEs, in which case he and/or McKitty can flex into a FB role for as few snaps as the offense uses that role.
- The team could still call him up from the practice squad for as many gamedays as they decide they need him, thanks to the new CBA rules on that.
- Don't carry a third QB on the active roster, moving Stick to the practice squad. There is absolutely no reason to believe another team would sign him from the Chargers PS, unless he lights it up this preseason. There is no film on him other than very limited preseason snaps -- 100 dropbacks total in 2019 and 2021, plus whatever he gets this preseason. He did not play well in those preseason dropbacks to date.
- Draft Araiza to beat out Scott and push him off the roster. This means if I continue to assume 8 rookie draft picks make the final roster, another spot opens for a veteran at a different position.
- Draft or sign a free agent that slots into a position group depth chart high enough to push a fringe player off (e.g., DL Gaziano, LB Ogbongbemiga, S Webb).
Functional Salary Cap Space
Now, taking everything posted above into account, I can determine an estimate of the team's functionally availble cap space.
First, something not yet addressed is 2022 dead cap money. OTC is showing the Chargers 2022 dead cap money as $3,661,390 for RT Bulaga and WR Reed. Spotrac is showing it as $3,791,166 for Bulaga, Reed, and 12 other players. I trust OTC more than Spotrac, but I also prefer to be conservative in my calculations, so I'm going with the Spotrac number.
In my previous posts, I failed to account for dead money, which was an oversight that skewed my numbers. Sorry about that.
Also, I typically assume the team will reserve $3M for 2022 in season injury replacements. (See my second offseason post for details.) However, I have noticed that Daniel Popper, the Chargers beat writer for the Athletic, reserves $7M for in-season signings and trades. I am skeptical that Telesco has ever used $7M in cap space for in-season maneuvers, and this typically just results in a bigger rollover number for the next season's cap adjustments. However, because I want to be conservative, I'm going to bump my number to $4M.
With that, we can calculate currently available space:
- The 2022 salary cap is set at $208.2M.
- However, due to a rollover from 2021 and other adjustments, OTC is showing the Chargers cap is $215,828,112. Spotrac shows it slight lower, at $215.8M. I will use the lower number.
- As noted above:
- The 42 players and 8 draft picks I identified in that last working roster above have a combined cap hit of $194,120,767.
- I am using the Spotrac dead money number of $3,791,166.
- The practice squad will have an estimated cap hit of $4,225,133. (See my second offseason post for details.)
- As noted above, I assume the team will reserve $4M for 2022 in season injury replacements or trades.
Do the math, and that leaves $9,662,934 in available 2022 cap space to sign additional free agents, and my assumptions have left 3 roster spots unaccounted for. Telesco doesn't normally spend right to the max, so the working space might be more like $7M to $8M.
Not as much as I had thought, which is why I like to go through this exercise. This probably explains why players like Edge Nwosu and LB White were not re-signed.
I think there is a good chance the Chargers will extend James' contract this offseason, which could lower his 2022 cap hit of $9M, freeing up more space. They could also consider extending Allen or restructuring Bosa's contract, though I think those moves are less likely. But they don't have to do any of those things to finalize a strong roster.
They have enough cap space to sign at least a few veterans, some combination of internal free agent TE Anderson, 1-2 veteran OL players like Schofield, a veteran RB, and/or KR Roberts.
The defense looks significantly improved right now. The pass rush, run defense, and CB play should all be better. As things stand, LB is still a weakness, unless Murray turns his performance around. Depth also remains an issue, particularly at Edge, unless Rumph takes a big step forward.
There is still a lot to do on offense, as mentioned earlier. The offensive line needs two starters IMO, so that is easily the top remaining priority for the rest of the offseason. I just hope the Chargers are not planning to count on any of Norton, Pipkins, or Jaimes to start in 2022.
The draft should help with the remaining issues, but I think they still need to be aggressive in mining free agency for a few more players. And I think they should extend Derwin's contract to free up some space to do that.
As usual, I probably made a few mistakes in this post, but I want to get it posted to stimulate some good discussion.