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2022 Roster Thoughts - Post NFL Draft

2022 NFL Draft - Round 1

The draft is over, so time for another update. This is the fifth post in this series; here are the others:

Other 2022 posts for reference:

Recent Free Agent Additions

Since my previous post in this series on March 27, the Chargers signed OL Will Clapp, LB Troy Reeder, and WR/KR DeAndre Carter.

IOL Will Clapp

Snaps and PFF grades for Clapp:

  • 2018 - 108 snaps (97 LG, 11 inline TE), 56.1 overall grade, 29.0 pass blocking grade, 63.6 run blocking grade
  • 2019 - 309 snaps (86 LG, 6 C, 93 RG, 124 ITE), 59.9 overall grade, 66.6 pass blocking grade, 55.7 run blocking grade
  • 2020 - 62 snaps (5 LG, 56 ITE), 57.2 overall grade, 60.7 pass blocking grade, 57.3 run blocking grade
  • 2021 - 133 snaps (10 LG, 58 C, 65 ITE), 50.7 overall grade, 40.5 pass blocking grade, 61.9 run blocking grade

He looks like an average run blocker and poor pass blocker. He has played a total of 356 NFL snaps at an IOL position in 4 seasons. I very seriously doubt that he has any shot at starting.

But that's fine. Depth is important. Bottom line:

  • He can play center, so this solves the backup center problem.
  • He can play guard, so he adds depth there, which was lacking with both Aboushi and Schofield unsigned.
  • He is the 7th OL who will make the final roster, along with Slater, Feiler, Linsley, Norton, Pipkins, and Jaimes, which reduces the need to add OL from 3 more to 2 more, whether via the draft or via free agency.

Given that he must have been cheap, and given his familiarity with new OL coach Brendan Nugent, this seems like a fine depth signing.

LB Troy Reeder

I posted all of Reeder's snaps and PFF grades in 2020 and 2021 in my post on the 2022 defense.

The biggest red flag IMO is that the Rams elected not to tender him, which made him a UFA. They could have retained him for $2.4M. Obviously, they signed Bobby Wagner, but it seems unusual that teams let a quality player under their cost control go after 3 seasons.

Since Reeder played better in 2020, we can hope that Staley can coach him up and/or utilize him better than the Rams did in 2021. Regardless, he looks like a depth player on defense, and he was also a very good special teams player for the Rams, so maybe he will help to improve that unit's performance.

WR/KR/PR DeAndre Carter

We were all pretty happy with Andre Roberts once he was added last season (well, at least until the last game of the season...). But there are reasons to prefer Carter:

  • Carter is more than 5 years younger. Roberts is 34 and could be more likely to see his performance erode and/or suffer injuries.
  • Carter can actually contribute on offense. Compare his 2021 season to Roberts:
    • Carter had 24 receptions, 296 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs, 17 receiving first downs, 10 rushing attempts, 89 rushing yards, and 4 rushing first downs.
    • The last time Roberts had any offensive production close to that was 2014.

I like the idea of not having to dedicate a roster spot to a player (e.g., Roberts) solely for kick/punt returns and nothing else... no offense, no defense, no other special teams units. For that reason, I view Carter as an upgrade.

2022 NFL Draft

Enough with the depth free agent signings and on to the draft!

I came up with 10 Big Board / draft rankings available to me without adding subscriptions (e.g., I don't pay for ESPN insider access, so I don't have access to Kiper's big board). I decided not to use any that ranked fewer than 150 players, which is how I got to these 10:

Note that some of the position rankings may be slightly off, since some of these sources mix terms for positions (e.g., C, G, T, IOL, and OL; CB, S, CB/S, and DB; etc.). I also had to do some counting for sites that didn't present the data in a manner that supported easy identification of position ranks. They should be mostly accurate and at least all in the right ballpark.

I also tracked draft grades from two sources:

  • PFF which uses a scale of Elite / Very Good / Good / Below Average / Poor
  • Sheil Kapadia, who graded all picks for the Athletic on a more traditional letter grade scale

Pick 1.17 - G Zion Johnson, Boston College

Johnson was selected:

  • 17th overall
  • 5th offensive lineman
  • 2nd guard

Here is a sampling of draft rankings for Johnson:

Ranker Overall OL Guard
Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs Top 300) 11 3 1
Draft Network (Joe Marino Top 255) 16 4 1
Sports Illustrated 18 5 1
Athletic (Consensus of 82 analysts) 20 5 2
Pro Football Network 22 5 1
Athletic (Dane Brugler) 22 6 1
PFF 24 6 1
nfl.com (Daniel Jeremiah Top 150) 30 6 1
nfl.com (Lance Zierlein) 37T 8 2
CBS Sports 44 10 2

Grades:

  • PFF graded this pick as Good and characterized it as "a quality pick."
  • Sheil Kapadia graded this pick as a B+. He wrote that "Johnson could eventually emerge as the best offensive lineman from this class."

From Dane Brugler:

Johnson has a stout, developed body type with the patience and placement to plant and re-leverage himself to stay centered as a pass blocker. In the run game, he shows off his body control and drive strength to execute from various angles. Overall, Johnson will occasionally lose his balance, but his combination of play strength, muscle twitch and reaction skills help him sustain as both a pass and run blocker. He has the talent to carve out a decade-long career as an interior NFL blocker.

Many fans, including me, liked the idea of trading down a few spots to pick up an additional Day 2 pick, but Telesco indicated after the first round that there was no viable opportunity to do so. Looking at how the draft played out, I believe it, since it is hard to see a scenario where another team would have been motivated to trade up to 17.

These rankings also mostly seem to show that trading down would have created some risk that they wouldn't still be able to draft Johnson. I think that would have been a bad outcome.

Some might believe that the 17th pick is too early to draft a guard, but that hasn't been the recent trend in the draft. Consider:

  • In 2018, Quenton Nelson went to IND at #6
  • In 2019, Jonah Williams went to CIN at #11 and Chris Lindstrom went to ATL at #14
  • In 2021, Alijah Vera-Tucker went to NYJ at #14
  • In this year's draft, Kenyon Green went to HOU at #15

Considering who was off the board by the time of the pick, I like this selection much better than all of the alternatives that have been discussed extensively over the past month, most notably Penning.

Pick 3.15 (79 overall) - S JT Woods, Baylor

Woods was selected:

  • 79th overall
  • 17th defensive back
  • 7th safety

Here is a sampling of draft rankings for Woods:

Ranker Overall DB Safety
nfl.com (Daniel Jeremiah Top 150) 67 14 6
nfl.com (Lance Zierlein) 89T 18 9
Draft Network (Joe Marino Top 255) 100 20 8
Pro Football Network 112 22 9
Sports Illustrated 113 25 8
Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs Top 300) 117 21 8
Athletic (Dane Brugler) 128 27 9
Athletic (Consensus of 82 analysts) 133 27 10
PFF 154 28 9
CBS Sports (Top 150) NR (151+) NR (34+) NR (13+)

Grades:

  • PFF graded this pick as Below Average, pointing out that he never earned a PFF grade above 67.0 and finished his college career with a missed tackle rate of 20%.
  • Sheil Kapadia graded this pick as a B. He wrote: "I have no problem taking a flier on a prospect with those traits at this point in the draft."

From Lance Zierlein's draft profile:

Long-levered safety with excellent top-end speed and the potential to become a rangy playmaker if he can learn to play with better overall discipline. Woods has too many busted assignments to be trusted in single-high alignments at this time, but offers teams the coverage versatility to be deployed in a variety of spots. If he can play with better decisiveness, he has the length, burst and striking power to impact catch tries and take the ball away. Woods' tools are likely to make him a Day 2 pick, but he'll need to prove that his run support and tackle finishing are on a functional level for the pro game.

It is tempting to call this a mild reach, and I don't love Kapadia characterizing a mid third round pick as a flier. However, unlike some of Telesco's past third round picks, there is reason to believe Woods can actually make a positive impact on the field as a rookie, since he seems like a solid fit for Staley's defensive scheme.

This pick adds to the versatility of the Chargers DB group to be able to move players around to confuse and match up well with the opposing offense. To me, this pick comes down to trusting Staley to get the value out of Woods that makes this pick worthwhile. I am cautiously optimistic about that.

Pick 4.18 (123 overall) - RB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M

Spiller was selected:

  • 123rd overall
  • 9th running back

Here is a sampling of draft rankings for Spiller:

Ranker Overall RB
Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs Top 300) 27 1
Draft Network (Joe Marino Top 255) 32 1
Pro Football Network 51 3
CBS Sports (Top 150) 61 3
Athletic (Consensus of 82 analysts) 63 3
nfl.com (Daniel Jeremiah Top 150) 72 3
nfl.com (Lance Zierlein) 73T 4
Sports Illustrated 102 6
Athletic (Dane Brugler) 108 3
PFF 150 11

PFF grade (SK grade not yet available):

  • PFF graded this pick as Good, despite the fact that PFF had Spiller ranked lower than every other source I showed above.

From the Draft Network draft profile:

Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller is an exciting running back prospect who has had consistent production playing in a very competitive SEC. Spiller is a north/south runner who offers outstanding size and runs with excellent power. Spiller displays very good vision as a runner and is patient attacking the hole, giving blocks time to manifest, and he flashes a good burst through the hole. He has an explosive jump cut to make defenders miss or hit the open gap. Spiller runs with excellent power and is a load to bring down in the open field. He offers very good contact balance and easily runs through arm tackles. Spiller lacks elite top-end speed but he does offer some short-area quickness to plant his foot in the ground and go. He also has a long stride, which can cover ground in the open field when he gets going downhill. His excellent vision and natural instincts as a runner allow him to naturally navigate through the holes and in the open field. While not the shiftiest of runners, he does show an ability to jump cut and make defenders miss laterally. As a receiver, Spiller is mostly used on quick outs, wheels, and screens. He displays good hands overall and can track the ball with ease. He can work on his pass blocking —he shows inconsistent hands and technique.

This pick looks like a strong pick. It seems there is reason for optimism to believe that Spiller can be what Rountree and Kelley have not been -- a solid complement to Ekeler. Spiller projects as a three-down back in the NFL, so he could also be the ultimate successor to Ekeler.

Pick 5.17 (160 overall) - IDL Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA

Ogbonnia was selected:

  • 160th overall
  • 19th interior defensive lineman

Here is a sampling of draft rankings for Ogbonnia:

Ranker Overall IDL
nfl.com (Lance Zierlein) 170 12
Athletic (Dane Brugler) 173 12
PFF 174 13
Athletic (Consensus of 82 analysts) 174 14
Pro Football Network 186 14
Sports Illustrated 192 16
Draft Network (Joe Marino Top 255) 244 18
Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs Top 300) 279 21
nfl.com (Daniel Jeremiah Top 150) NR (151+) NR (11+)
CBS Sports (Top 150) NR (151+) NR (13+)

PFF grade (SK grade not yet available):

  • PFF graded this pick as Good, despite the fact that PFF had Spiller ranked lower than every other source I showed above.

From Lance Zierlein's draft profile:

Interior lineman who plays with heavy hands to pop and separate for an early advantage, but heavy feet that prevent him from doing enough with it. He can handle some of the heavy lifting, but not all. Ogbonnia will flash as a one-technique or tilted nose but lacks the pad level and parking brake to hold it down as a 3-4 nose. He has very average quickness and does not profile as a mismatch defender. He is not an NFL pass-rush threat. He had splashy moments at the Senior Bowl and has a shot as a backup 4-3 nose but could offer some position flexibility for teams running varied fronts.

We knew the Chargers had met with Ogbonnia and knew they liked him, so this pick is not a surprise. I have a hard time seeing him as a real impact player, but I think he will earn snaps in the rotation, albeit probably not too many as a rookie, barring injury. I think this pushes Fehoko off the final roster to the practice squad.

Pick 6.16 (195 overall) - OL Jamaree Salyer, Georgia

Salyer was selected:

  • 195th overall
  • 35th offensive lineman

Here is a sampling of draft rankings for Salyer:

Ranker Overall OL Guard*
Athletic (Dane Brugler) 54 12 4
Sports Illustrated 65 13 3
PFF 66 13 3
Athletic (Consensus of 82 analysts) 80 17 6
nfl.com (Lance Zierlein) 89T 20 8
Draft Network (Joe Marino Top 255) 97 17 8
Pro Football Network 101 16 4
Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs Top 300) 102 18 8
nfl.com (Daniel Jeremiah Top 150) 120 21 11
CBS Sports (Top 150) NR (151+) NR (32+) NR (10+)

PFF grade (SK grade not yet available):

  • PFF graded this pick as Elite, and characterized this pick as "One of the biggest steals of Day 3."

From Dane Brugler:

Salyer is very efficient in his setup and plays with outstanding body control, balance and core strength to stay centered through contact. Although he tends to get narrow with his steps and has some bad habits, he understands depth, angles and how to effectively respond with his hands. Overall, Salyer had 22 of his 23 career starts in college at offensive tackle, but his stout frame, quick reactions and overall skill set are ideally suited on the interior. He projects as a plug-and-play NFL guard while offering position versatility in a pinch.

Unless the other teams know something the Chargers don't, this pick looks like a steal. I don't think the Chargers truly needed this pick, unless they envision Salyer playing tackle and the trio of Norton, Pipkins, and Salyer playing RT this season. Or unless the coaching staff decided to reconsider moving Feiler to RT to clear a starting role for Salyer. Regardless, the fact that drafting him could reopen that possibility emphasizes the value of this pick, which was presumably too enticing to pass up.

Daniel Popper pointed out that Salyer "only gave up one sack in his career, and that was to Alabama’s Will Anderson, arguably the best defensive player in the nation." Yes, please.

Pick 6.35 (214 overall) - CB Ja’Sir Taylor, Wake Forest

Taylor was selected:

  • 214th overall
  • 42nd defensive back
  • 26th cornerback

Taylor was only ranked in 2 of the 10 sources I am using:

Ranker Overall DB CB
Draft Network (Joe Marino Top 255) 246 53 34
Pro Football Network 255 51 32
CBS Sports (Top 150) NR (151+) NR (34+) NR (22+)
nfl.com (Daniel Jeremiah Top 150) NR (151+) NR (35+) NR (24+)
Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs Top 300) NR (301+) NR (58+) NR (34+)
Athletic (Consensus of 82 analysts) NR (301+) NR (61+) NR (38+)
Athletic (Dane Brugler) NR (301+) NR (62+) NR (42+)
nfl.com (Lance Zierlein) NR (325+) NR (62+) NR (39+)
PFF NR (345+) NR (64+) NR (41+)
Sports Illustrated NR (351+) NR (65+) NR (43+)

PFF grade (SK grade not yet available):

  • PFF graded this pick as Below Average, with this comment: "Taylor didn’t make PFF’s big board and is a bit of a head-scratcher. From 2020 to 2021, his coverage grade regressed from 72.9 to 48.6."

From the Draft Network draft profile (currently only available from Joe Marino's Top 255 Big Board):

Ja’Sir Taylor brought his talents to Wake Forest after being a standout football player and track star in high school—he led his team in rushing as a senior and clocked a 10.74s in the 100 meters. He saw work as a true freshman for the Demon Deacons and was a fixture in the secondary for five seasons. Taylor saw most of his work come as an outside corner but did get a fair amount of reps in the slot. What stands out most about Taylor is his quick feet, speed, fluid hips, and competitive toughness. He has the movement skills to match steps with twitchy slot receivers and he competes above his weight class. When it comes to areas of concern, he’s an undersized corner that lacks length, functional strength, and anticipatory skills in coverage. His skill set presents challenges projecting him to a role in the slot or outside at the next level. He is an experienced special teams player that has served as a kick returner. That combined with his feet and hips to hold up in man coverage are his best qualities that give him a chance to stick in the NFL.

He seems to profile as a slot corner, but that draft profile above combined with the lack of rankings by most sources combine to suggest he will have to earn a roster spot through special teams play. Daniel Popper also posted that he had 9 penalties and allowed 5 TDs in 2021. He is probably a bubble player at best, and I expect he will end up on the practice squad.

Pick 7.15 (236 overall) - CB Deane Leonard, Mississippi

Leonard was selected:

  • 236th overall
  • 49th defensive back
  • 30th cornerback

Leonard was not ranked in any of the 10 sources I am using:

Ranker Overall DB CB
CBS Sports (Top 150) NR (151+) NR (34+) NR (22+)
nfl.com (Daniel Jeremiah Top 150) NR (151+) NR (35+) NR (24+)
Draft Network (Joe Marino Top 255) NR (256+) NR (56+) NR (37+)
Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs Top 300) NR (301+) NR (58+) NR (34+)
Athletic (Consensus of 82 analysts) NR (301+) NR (61+) NR (38+)
Pro Football Network NR (301+) NR (63+) NR (38+)
Athletic (Dane Brugler) NR (301+) NR (62+) NR (42+)
nfl.com (Lance Zierlein) NR (325+) NR (62+) NR (39+)
PFF NR (345+) NR (64+) NR (41+)
Sports Illustrated NR (351+) NR (65+) NR (43+)

PFF grade (SK grade not yet available):

  • PFF graded this pick as Good, with this comment: "Another projectable athlete in the secondary for the Chargers, Leonard ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash while measuring in at just over 6-feet and 194 pounds. While Leonard’s measurables didn’t exactly match his production at Ole Miss, as the former Rebel posted 67.9 and 62.9 coverage grades in his two seasons in Oxford, the traits are certainly there for Leonard to develop into a key depth piece."

Interesting that PFF graded the Taylor and Leonard picks so differently, given neither made PFF's big board. Looks like the two of them will probably be battling for a roster spot. If true, Leonard could have the advantage, since he is bigger and faster.

FWIW, Leonard is from Canada and was the #18 pick in the 2021 CFL draft.

Pick 7.39 (260 overall) - RB/FB Zander Horvath, Purdue

Horvath was selected:

  • 260th overall
  • 24th running back

Horvath was not ranked in any of the 10 sources I am using:

Ranker Overall RB
CBS Sports (Top 150) NR (151+) NR (10+)
nfl.com (Daniel Jeremiah Top 150) NR (151+) NR (15+)
Draft Network (Joe Marino Top 255) NR (256+) NR (22+)
Pro Football Network NR (301+) NR (28+)
Draft Network (Kyle Crabbs Top 300) NR (301+) NR (29+)
Athletic (Consensus of 82 analysts) NR (301+) NR (31+)
Athletic (Dane Brugler) NR (301+) NR (31+)
nfl.com (Lance Zierlein) NR (325+) NR (37+)
PFF NR (345+) NR (34+)
Sports Illustrated NR (351+) NR (36+)

However, the Sports Illustrated big board only goes to 350 players, but selecting individual positions can show additional players. Filtering their big board to FB shows that SI ranked Horvath as its 3rd highest rated fullback. From SI's draft profile:

Running back making the transition to fullback, Horvath doesn’t have standout traits that would project him to be an impact fullback at the next level.

Pros:

The toughness is on full display throughout Horvath’s film. He breaks tackles, is a willing blocker and doesn’t shy away from contact. In the transition to fullback from running back that aspect of his game is critical. With the ball in his hands, Horvath is a smart runner. He has good vision and knows how to attack holes. In space, Horvath is a solid mover for 230 pounds. Purdue’s offense doesn’t ask him to run routes but Horvath showed good enough hands on checkdown passes.

Cons:

There isn’t much upside to Horvath’s game. He is what he is and didn’t show much athletic ability on film. Horvath is tight, preventing him from changing directions, which could impact his ability to stay with and attach to linebackers at the 2nd level. There is also going to be a transition for Horvath, as he was used as a running back at Purdue. He showed the ability to block in pass protection but that wasn’t often and blocking in the run game is much more difficult. For a high floor player, there is a bit of a projection, which teams don’t want, especially at an undervalued position.

PFF grade (SK grade not yet available):

  • PFF graded this pick as Good, with this comment: "Horvath is a 6-foot-3, 230-pound fullback prospect who averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2021. He’s not overly elusive, but the kid is PHYSICAL."

I have been on the anti-FB bandwagon for a couple seasons now. IMO the Chargers proved me right last season with how little they used Nabers. That said, I understand Nabers is close to Herbert, and he is now a veteran, especially compared to a player like Horvath, who is attempting to transition to FB while moving from Purdue to the NFL.

On the other hand, Horvath's size and the fact that he was a solid runner in the Big 10 (268 /1181/8 at 4.4 ypc for his career) makes me wonder if the coaching staff could envision using him as a runner in short yardage. I suppose it is possible that Spiller and Horvath could beat out Kelley/Rountree. He seems most likely to land on the practice squad, though.

Summary

High-level summary:

  • Immediate high-quality starters:
    • RG Johnson
    • Edge Mack -- It is important to remember that this draft's second round pick was traded along with two late 7th round picks (effectively) for Mack. We should think of Mack as part of this draft haul, and that makes it look even better, since he is a second immediate starter, and a Pro Bowl level starter at that.
  • Immediate rotation players who should contribute on offense/defense:
    • RB Spiller
    • IDL Ogbonnia
    • S Woods
  • Could be an early contributor if snaps are available:
    • OL Salyer
  • Battling for final few roster spots / practice squad slots:
    • CB Taylor
    • CB Leonard
    • RB/FB Horvath

I like that every one of these picks is a player from a Power 5 conference. No players from Texas State (Mager), Western Kentucky (Lamp), Sioux Falls (Pipkins), or the like.

Entering the draft, the team needed help at OL, IDL, DB, and RB, and they got it. Not all of these players will be great, of course, but there is reason to believe all of those position groups were upgraded.

However, the team also needed help at OT and pass rush and didn't get it. (No, I don't think UDFA OT Trainer and/or UDFA OLB Shelby are it.) I am hoping the team has a plan to add a veteran to address each of those needs.

(I say this assuming that Telesco and Staley don't change their mind about moving Feiler to RT having gotten Salyer in the 6th round.)

Many felt the team needed to add speed at WR and help at LB. I would have been fine with boosts in those position groups, but didn't think it was as necessary as many others here. Roster, cap, and contract constraints make it generally impossible to address everything in one draft or even one offseason.

All things considered, I think it is possible that this ends up as the best draft of Telesco's 10 year tenure. And I say that as someone who has been very critical of Telesco's drafting.

Undrafted Free Agents (UDFAs)

As of this writing, the Chargers have signed 14 UDFAs:

  1. QB Brandon Peters, Illinois
  2. OT Andrew Trainer, William & Mary
  3. C Isaac Weaver, Old Dominion
  4. RB Leddie Brown, West Virginia
  5. RB Kevin Marks Jr., Buffalo
  6. WR Trevon Bradford, Oregon State
  7. TE Erik Krommenhoek, Southern California
  8. TE Stone Smartt, Old Dominion
  9. Edge Ty Shelby, Louisiana-Monroe
  10. LB Tyreek Maddox-Williams, Rutgers
  11. CB Brandon Sebastian, Boston College
  12. S Raheem Layne, Indiana
  13. S Skyler Thomas, Liberty
  14. K James McCourt, Illinois

I have not yet researched this group. I hope at least one of them is good enough to prove me wrong and force his way onto the final 53, but, for now, I will assume that none of them make the final roster.

Roster Speculation

With that, it's time to take a look at the roster. As I just mentioned, I will assume none of the 14 UDFAs make it for purposes of this exercise.

The Chargers currently have 62 players under contract for 2022, excluding draft picks and UDFAs. I am going to go ahead and apply the same roster exclusions as in my previous post in this series:

  1. WR Bandy
  2. Edge Brown
  3. LB Christiansen
  4. IDL Davis
  5. S DeLuca
  6. LB Egbule
  7. IDL Fehoko
  8. WR Ffrench
  9. CB Hall
  10. G Hunter
  11. TE Kampmoyer
  12. LB Lloyd
  13. IDL Merrill
  14. WR Moore
  15. WR Reed
  16. RB Rountree
  17. 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 2022 roster and will exclude them from my final roster projection in this post.

For now, I am going to assume that rookie CB Leonard beats out rookie CB Taylor for a roster spot, and Taylor drops to the practice squad.

I am going to further assume that RB/FB Horvath makes the final roster and Nabers does not. This is probably a shaky assumption rooted in my hope that Horvath can provide a greater positive impact, since I already have reason to believe Nabers cannot. (See my previous post in this series for my take on Nabers.)

Working Roster

That leaves 51 core players at this time, based on all of my assumptions, shown here with their salary cap hits from OverTheCap (* is assumed; ** is projected for the rookies):

Pos Player Cap Number
Edge Joey Bosa $28,250,000
WR Keenan Allen $19,200,000
WR Mike Williams $14,000,000
C Corey Linsley $11,600,000
CB Michael Davis $9,375,000
S Derwin James $9,052,000
Edge Khalil Mack $8,750,000
CB J.C. Jackson $8,000,000
LG Matt Feiler $7,500,000
QB Justin Herbert $7,248,751
RB Austin Ekeler $7,000,000
IDL Sebastian Joseph-Day $5,000,000
IDL Austin Johnson $4,500,000
TE Gerald Everett $4,000,000
LT Rashawn Slater $3,779,945
IDL Jerry Tillery $3,634,323
LB Kenneth Murray $3,538,621
RG Zion Johnson $3,031,473 **
S Nasir Adderley $2,905,384
LB Drue Tranquill $2,704,702
QB Chase Daniel $2,000,000
PK Dustin Hopkins $1,920,000
CB Asante Samuel Jr. $1,641,579
LS Josh Harris $1,320,000
T Trey Pipkins $1,184,269
WR Josh Palmer $1,143,649
WR DeAndre Carter $1,135,000
RB Joshua Kelley $1,090,086
TE Tre' McKitty $1,087,693
LB Troy Reeder $1,075,000
IDL Christian Covington $1,047,500
IOL Will Clapp $1,035,000 *
QB Easton Stick $1,034,655
Edge Chris Rumph II $1,013,385
S JT Woods $1,004,435 **
CB Tevaughn Campbell $965,000
WR Jalen Guyton $965,000
P JK Scott $965,000
S Alohi Gilman $941,969
RB Isaiah Spiller $921,893 **
G Brenden Jaimes $904,449
IDL Joe Gaziano $895,000
T Storm Norton $895,000
TE Donald Parham $895,000
LB Nick Niemann $878,502
S Mark Webb $850,022
LB Amen Ogbongbemiga $830,000
IDL Otito Ogbonnia $798,852 **
OL Jamaree Salyer $756,780 **
CB Deane Leonard $734,332 **
RB/FB Zander Horvath $727,665 **
Total $195,726,914

Note that Clapp's contract details are not yet available at OTC or Spotrac. So I assumed he accrued 4 seasons with New Orleans and assigned him the veteran minimum salary for a player with that many. This seems reasonable, since he bounced between the Saints' active roster and practice squad last season and also signed late in free agency.

Working Roster Breakdown

The core working roster of 51 players (i.e., players under contract plus rookies less exclusions) looks like this:

Offense (24):

  • QB (3) - Herbert, Daniel, Stick
  • RB (4) - Ekeler, Spiller (R), Kelley, Horvath (R)
  • FB (0) -
  • WR (5) - Allen, Williams, Guyton, Palmer, Carter
  • TE (3) - Everett, Parham, McKitty
  • OL (9) - LT Slater, LG Feiler, C Linsley, RG Johnson (R), T Norton, T Pipkins, G/C Clapp, G Jaimes, G Salyer (R)

Defense (24):

  • Edge (3) - Bosa, Mack, Rumph
  • IDL (6) - Johnson, Joseph-Day, Tillery, Covington, Gaziano, Ogbonnia (R)
  • LB (5) - Tranquill, Murray, Reeder, Ogbongbemiga, Niemann
  • CB (5) - Jackson, Davis, Samuel, Campbell, Leonard (R)
  • S (5) - James, Adderley, Gilman, Webb, Woods (R)

Special Teams (3):

  • PK (1) - Hopkins
  • P (1) - Scott
  • LS (1) - Harris

As previously noted:

  • The team needs a starting RT, unless Staley changes his mind about moving Feiler to RT. Assuming that doesn't happen, there are a number of veterans available to the Chargers to come in as the presumptive starter and battle Norton and Pipkins. Duane Brown, Daryl Williams, Bobbie Massie, Jason Peters, or maybe even Nate Solder. Some of them might be too expensive or might not be quite the right scheme fit, but I have to believe there is a veteran fit available.
  • The team needs a depth Edge player. There are currently only 3 pass rushers, with Rumph as the only depth player, unless we consider a hybrid guy like Gaziano as depth. I assume the team will sign a veteran for this role. It is important not to set up Bosa and Mack to have to play too many snaps to keep them healthy and fresh late in games.

Signing those two players would make a complete 53 man roster, and it would look like a damn good one to me.

  • The offensive line should be improved through the addition of RG Johnson and OL Salyer. Norton got a lot of reps last year and could be improved. And the team could still add another veteran.
  • The passing game should be improved, with Herbert gaining a second year of NFL experience and all of the principal skill players getting a full year in Lombardi's offensive scheme. Plus, the pass blocking should be improved, which will also help. Only one primary target is gone -- Cook -- and he was arguably upgraded by signing Everett. Palmer has his rookie year behind him and should improve.
  • The running game should be improved through the addition of Spiller and Horvath, plus likely improved run blocking due to the offensive line improvement.
  • I posted why it appears that the defense has improved at all three levels in my post on the 2022 defense, and that was before the team drafted 4 more defensive players.
  • We can also hope for special teams improvement, with a new coach, punter, and long snapper, plus a handful of different players to inject into kickoff and punt coverage..

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, let's determine 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.

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. That said, because I want to be conservative, I'm going to bump my number to $4M.

With that, we can calculate currently available space:

Do the math, and that leaves $8.05M in available 2022 cap space to sign additional free agents, most notably the RT and pass rusher I mentioned previously. Telesco doesn't normally spend right to the max, so the working space might be more like $5M to $7M, though arguably this is the year the Chargers are ready to push their chips all in, so maybe this is the year they spend to the max.

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.

Conclusion

The roster looks significantly improved right now. The offensive line, running game, pass rush, run defense, and CB play should all be better. As things stand, the starting RT and LB are both still weaknesses, at least unless Murray turns his performance around. Depth also remains an issue at Edge.

I think the Chargers still need to be aggressive in mining free agency for a starting RT and depth Edge player. 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.

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.