This is the 7th post in this series; here are the others:
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - Entering Offseason (January 16)
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - Entering Free Agency (March 12)
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - 1 Week Into Free Agency (March 20)
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - 2 Weeks Into Free Agency (March 27)
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - Post NFL Draft (April 30)
- 2022 Roster Thoughts - Before Preseason Game #2 (August 19)
We are past roster cuts, so it seems like a good time for an update.
53 Man Roster (as of 9/2/2022)
I resisted calling this the final roster, because we know that isn't true. Here is the current 53 man roster, along with their cap hits from OverTheCap:
Here is the current practice squad, with their cap hits from OTC:
Notice the TBD slot. Teams can have up to 16 players on their practice squads for 2022. To be conservative, I assume the Chargers will carry the maximum number of 16 players. We don't know who the 16th will be yet. But I am assuming it is not a veteran player, and thus will slot in at $207K like everyone else except Covington.
The CBA allows 2 practice squad players to be activated every week for reasons other than COVID, and an unlimited number of players as COVID replacements. Those players get paid at NFL minimum salary level for each week they are activated.
In 2022, the NFL minimum salary is $705K, which equates to a weekly salary of $39,167.
The Chargers activated practice squad players a total of 27 times in the 2021 season. I will round that up to 2 players per regular season game to be conservative for this projection, for a total of 34 activations. This seems reasonable, since I also need to assume there will be some COVID activations.
For this projection, I assume all of these activations are from the lower paid players (i.e., not Covington), since that is more conservative. That means adding $27,667 (difference between active minimum salary and minimum practice squad salary per game) in cap hit per activation. For 34 activations, that is $940,667.
Here are the current players on Injured Reserve (IR) and the Non-Football Injury/Illness (NFI) list:
According to Spotrac, Campbell, Merrill, Weaver, and Lloyd have been placed on IR and will miss the remainder of the season. I had not seen that reported elsewhere. They do not say that about Trainer... not sure if that is an oversight or implies that he could return from IR. Not that I expect the Chargers to need him, but also not sure if that could change anything about his cap hit.
Anyway, assuming this information is accurate, Campbell won't be back this season, which is something I had hoped for. Deane Leonard should thank his lucky stars that Campbell and Webb got hurt... I doubt he would have made the team if either of them was healthy.
Also worth noting, OTC does not show TE Sage Surratt on IR, but Spotrac does, with a cap hit of $430K. I trust OTC more than Spotrac, so I'm leaving Surratt out for purposes of this post.
2022 Salary Cap Charges
Here are the team's 2022 cap charges:
I have not covered two of these charges to this point, the dead cap money and the budget for additional injuries.
The dead cap money is mostly Bulaga, who accounts for about $3.3M of that $4M amount. The rest comes from the large group of players waived at roster cutdown both last season and this season. Since roster cutdown happens after June 1, the cap hits for waived players typically ends up split between the current season and next season cap. So the Chargers have dead money for players cut in 2021 and 2022. And they will still have dead money against the 2023 cap for players cut this year.
As for the budget for additional injuries, I don't know for sure how Telesco thinks about this and plans for it, but suppose 6 players get hurt and are out for the season at some point. Not an unreasonable number since the Chargers already have at least 6 players on IR or the NFI list. Suppose 2 of them go down with 2/3 of the season left, 2 with half the season left, and 2 with 1/3 of the season left. That means the team would need 6 replacement players who would be active for the equivalent of 3 full seasons... and they also have to pay the 6 injured players. $3M is just a guess. It could be higher, so it may not be conservative enough.
Functional Cap Space
That doesn't leave much functional cap space:
Call it $4M. With the Chargers' 2023 cap challenge looming, I anticipate the team will want to minimize additional cap spending this season to maximize how much they can roll over into 2023.
OK, that is the roster, but how good is it? I decided to look at each position group.
Compared to last season, the QB position group should be improved:
- Herbert is only entering his third season and should still be improving.
- There has now been stability in the QB room and offensive scheme for a second full offseason, which has been cited by both coaches and players, including Herbert himself, as a reason for offensive improvement.
Obviously, Herbert is one of the best QBs in the NFL. Stick is QB3, so I assume he will be inactive on gamedays as long as Herbert and Daniel are healthy. That was the case last season, when Stick was only active once, in week 16 when Daniel was on the COVID list.
Compared to last season, the RB/FB group should be significantly improved:
- The signing of Michel is a great upgrade for this position group. He is actually a good complement to Ekeler, something that has been needed since Gordon departed. He is a veteran who has been on two Super Bowl champions, he has a history of being a solid workhorse runner when needed who rarely fumbles, and he is probably the best pass blocking RB on the team. He is an obvious upgrade over last season's RB2, Justin Jackson.
- Michel's addition should push Kelley to RB3 or RB4, the same role he played last season. However, based on his camp and preseason, he looks quite a bit better this year, which means his position should be improved in 2022.
- Michel's addition also takes all pressure off Spiller and allows him to come along at whatever pace works for him.
- Horvath looks like an upgrade over Nabers IMO, and they really won't need much from him other than special teams play, based on how little they used Nabers on offense. Theoretically, he could get some snaps that went to TE Stephen Anderson last season, but I expect most of those to go to TEs Everett and McKitty. I had originally anticipated that Horvath could see some short yardage carries, but those that don't go to Ekeler will probably now go to Michel.
- Of course, I hope all of the Chargers players stay healthy, but Michel's addition now makes me think the team could withstand Ekeler missing some games if that happens. That is useful insurance in an "all in" season like 2022 is shaping up to be.
In conjunction with signing Michel, the team waived Rountree and signed him to the practice squad. It would take multiple injuries for him to see any playing time this year.
Last season, ignoring week 16 since the COVID situation skewed the actives vs. inactives, a RB was inactive in 14 of the other 16 games, and Nabers was also inactive for 7 games, including one of the weeks no RB was inactive. I expect Horvath to be a better special teams player than Nabers was and Kelley is, so I think he will typically be active. That leads me to believe that, if all of these players are healthy, either Spiller or Kelley will typically be inactive on gameday, most likely Kelley.
This was a great WR group last season and should be even better this season:
- We know what to expect from Allen and Williams, and there is no reason to expect any dropoff if they stay healthy.
- Palmer is entering his second year and should be improved. He had a great camp and preseason.
- Staley commented multiple times during camp that Guyton was a standout. He is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so he is playing for a much bigger contract.
- Last season, the Chargers WR5 was Jason Moore, who ran 31 routes on the season and had a total of 4 targets. The Chargers signed Carter this offseason to handle kick/punt returns. He had 44 targets in Washington last season and has been sensational on offense throughout training camp. So it seems very likely he will have a bigger role than Moore did last season. He gives the Chargers another WR with deep speed to threaten the defense.
- I wasn't sure Bandy would clear waivers, but he did, and thus provides excellent insurance in case of injury to one of the others.
- Moore and Reed are also on the practice squad, but it's hard to see either of them getting any playing time unless due to injuries. Reed could possibly leapfrog Bandy if Carter were to get injured, not sure how that would play out.
I expect 5 WRs to be active for every game.
The TE group should be improved:
- I think Everett is a better NFL TE than Cook. He is a much better blocker, and he is expected to do more with his targets than Cook did (and drop fewer of them!).
- Parham and McKitty are young players who should still be improving. Parham was having a great camp before he tweaked his hamstring.
- Kampmoyer provides depth on the practice squad, although if and when he plays, he shouldn't be expected to be as good as Anderson, so TE4 may be downgraded. In the big picture, that is a pretty small negative, and the first one I have discovered in this writeup so far.
I expect 3 TEs to be active for every game.
The OL group should be significantly better this season:
- Johnson should represent an upgrade over Aboushi/Schofield at RG.
- Pipkins should be improved this season and at least marginally better than he and Norton were last season at RT.
- Salyer looks like a clear upgrade for OL depth, primarily at G.
- Clapp and Norton should provide solid veteran depth at OT and C, at least to the extent that a swing tackle and backup center can reasonably be expected to provide in today's NFL.
- Jaimes seems like the weakest link among the OL on the 53 man roster at this point.
- We can only hope that there is never a reason for the team to activate either of the practice squad tackles, Bailey and Sarell. As others have posted recently, it would seem likely that the team could find others to replace them, but there is no sign of that happening.
The team must have 8 OL active on gameday in order to raise the active roster limit from 47 to 48. This makes the 8th OL effectively free from an active roster perspective, so I assume the Chargers will have 8 OL active every week. At this point, I expect Jaimes will be inactive most weeks. For reference, last season, the Chargers had an inactive OL player 13 times in the 16 games other than week 16, the COVID week.
The interior defensive line is largely a new group, with 4 of 6 players on the 53 man roster new to the Chargers this season -- Austin Johnson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, and Otito Ogbonnia. I wrote quite a bit about this group in this fan post in May: 2022 Chargers Defensive Expectations: Part 2
Here is a summary from that post:
This data shows that the weighted defensive grade for this unit should be marginally improved. I anticipate that many fans think this unit is much more improved than it may actually be based on these veteran additions. Unfortunately, Johnson and Fox just weren’t very good, so they don’t move the needle much in place of Joseph and Jones.
At the time I wrote that, I expected Covington to make the 53 man roster over Fehoko. I am pleased to note that Fehoko had a great camp and preseason and earned that spot. It is also good news that Covington and Gaziano are on the practice squad, since both can provide solid depth in the event of injuries within this group.
I would say I am slightly more optimistic about this group now than when I wrote that previous fan post. For one thing, although Johnson and Fox weren't particularly good in 2021 and 2020, respectively, they weren't playing with as many players of the caliber of Bosa, Mack, Van Noy, James, and Jackson, either. That should help them.
I expect the Chargers will have 5 IDL players active for every game. That implies one of these players will be inactive. To open the season, I assume that will typically be Ogbonnia, but it could be Tillery occasionally if he doesn't improve his play.
This position group should be significantly improved:
- Bosa should be better -- I wrote about this (and this entire group) in the fan post mentioned above.
- Mack replaces Nwosu - should be a huge upgrade
- Van Noy replaces Fackrell - should be a huge upgrade
- Rumph showed in camp/preseason that he is significantly improved this season
Although the team signed Carlo Kemp to the practice squad, I was surprised the team chose not to also sign either Jamal Davis or Egbule, especially since they kept only 3 full-time edge players. I understand Van Noy will fill in there, and maybe Fox or Tillery or Gaziano could do so in a pinch. Still, I was surprised. I thought Davis was going to make the final roster. I'm not the only one surprised that Davis remains a free agent. The Chargers have an open spot on the practice squad. I'd be happy if they filled it with Davis.
As for Kemp, he had a strong camp and preseason and may be able to provide useful depth if needed.
I am a little concerned with a statement Staley recently made to justify keeping just 3 full-time edge players. In his press conference after roster cutdown, he said:
My experience with premium edge players is they play over 80% of the time... well over 80%... closer to 90 than 80 if you are as good as Joey and Khalil...
Joey has clearly been gassed in some 4th quarters in the past, and Mack is 31 and coming off an injury marred season. I hope the coaches will take steps to try to keep both him and Mack fresh. This is one reason I had hoped that Davis would make the final roster.
I expect all 3 full-time edge players plus Van Noy to be active for each game, barring injuries.
It is hard to tell if this group will be better than the 2021 group or not. Here is part of what I wrote in the fan post linked above:
Unfortunately, this data shows that the weighted defensive grade for this unit might be worse than last season. The reason the data shows this is because White was by far the Chargers’ best LB last season, and he also played nearly half of their LB snaps...
This currently looks like the weakest link in the defense, but, hopefully, there is nowhere for their performance to go but up.
It is for this reason that I would have kept Edge Davis on the final roster and made Van Noy the full-time ILB1. That didn't happen, meaning more ILB snaps will be played by others. Maybe that will be fine, if Murray gets closer to fulfilling his potential, but that seems like a big if right now.
The Chargers have 6 ILBs on the 53 man roster, and 4 of them will likely play heavy special teams snaps -- Niemann, Ogbongbemiga, Reeder, and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Tranquill. For that reason, I expect all 6 players to be active for every game barring injuries, as things stand today with the roster.
It seems possible that Ogbongbemiga may not remain on the 53 man roster all season. IMO his spot was the last one filled on defense.
The CB group should be significantly improved this season:
- The Chargers signed the premier free agent corner on the market in Jackson. I wrote a lot about him (and this group) in the other fan post linked above.
- This pushes Samuel and Davis down one slot on the depth chart, which should result in more favorable matchups for them.
- The team signed Callahan to upgrade their primary slot CB position.
- The team drafted Taylor and he had a good training camp/preseason. He looks like a good young CB5 who will also play special teams. He may be the primary slot corner next season if the team chooses to let Callahan walk.
- The team also drafted Leonard, and he made the final roster, though I think Leonard probably only made it due to injuries to CB Campbell and S Webb, plus the current injury/non-injury to Jackson. Leonard looks like a bit of a project player, and I'm not certain he will remain on the 53 man roster all season.
- The team also has Hall and Jacquet on the practice squad. Hall provides some useful depth there, but Jacquet is a bit of an unknown who was just signed less than two weeks ago. He has appeared in 8 games with the Eagles and Jaguars, so perhaps he will be a solid practice squad player.
I expect 5 CBs to be active for every game, which should make Leonard the odd man out when all are healthy.
This position group didn't really improve much, if at all, but, fortunately, it was already a strong group.
- James and Adderley are back, and that is a great pair of starters. Status quo.
- Gilman looks improved, but his skill set is somewhat limited. I think Staley would prefer Webb if he could stay healthy.
- Woods was drafted in the third round with high hopes for him to play quite a bit of deep safety this season in preparation to (likely) replace Adderley next season. But he played poorly in camp/preseason and now looks like a project. He will play, but expectations should be low at this point.
- Webb is on the practice squad and did not get placed on IR, even though he has not been healthy. This implies the team could activate him at some point if he gets healthy. Staley has made it clear that he loves Webb's skill set.
- Layne is also on the practice squad, and he flashed in preseason and should provide a solid depth option if needed.
I expect at least 4 safeties to be active for every game.
This group should be improved:
- Barring injury, they will have Hopkins all season.
- Based on camp/preseason, it seems safe to project that Scott is an upgrade over Long at punter.
- Harris was the 2nd team All Pro long snapper in 2021, and should represent an upgrade over last season's 36 year old LS, Overton.
All of these players will be active for every game, obviously.
On paper, the team looks much better this season:
- Every position group on offense should be improved.
- On defense, the Edge and CB groups should be improved signicantly, the safety group should be flat, and it remains to be seen if the IDL and/or ILB groups improve. Still, overall, this should result in a better defense.
- Special teams should be improved.
That is a quality offseason.
As shown above, it seems unlikely the team will make any other notable additions to the roster unless due to injuries. Fortunately, that doesn't appear to be necessary.
On to the playoffs!