Earlier this week, the folks at ESPN posted their top 50 free agents set to hit the market come March. Only one Charger made that list in linebacker Drue Tranquill.
Around the same time, Pro Football Focus also dropped their list of the top free agents, but their list went all the way up to 100.
Three total Chargers graced their rankings with edge rusher Kyle Van Noy (70) and defensive tackle Morgan Fox (89) joining Tranquill (64) on the back half of the list.
Here are all the players and their blurbs from PFF analyst Brad Spielberger:
LB Drue Tranquill
Contract Projection: Two years, $8.5 million ($4.25M per year); $5 million total guaranteed
“The 2022 season was Tranquill’s first as a full-time starter following Kyzir White’s departure, and his 105 tackles were more than his first three seasons combined. Perhaps most importantly in today’s NFL, Tranquill followed up his 74.6 coverage grade in 2021 with a career-high 75.4 mark, with his 18 stops in coverage a top-20 figure among off-ball linebackers.”
“He also made the absolute most of the occasional blitz, tallying 15 pressures, five sacks and three more quarterback hits on 70 pass-rush snaps.”
EDGE Kyle Van Noy
Contract Projection: Two years, $6.5 million ($3.25M per year); $4 million total guaranteed
“The New England Patriots released Van Noy heading into the second year of a two-year, $12 million contract, and he greatly outperformed his one-year, $2.25 million pact with the Los Angeles Chargers for 2022. The savvy veteran has played both as a true off-ball linebacker and more near the line of scrimmage rushing the passer in the past two seasons, offering a unique and valuable skill set to potentially interested teams, with grades above 60.0 in every facet in 2022.”
“Van Noy recorded a pressure percentage of right around 10% with at least five sacks in each of the past four seasons, and his 82.1 coverage grade over the past two seasons is fifth among linebackers. There aren’t many Kyle Van Noy’s out there, and he’s played at least 700 snaps in each of the past six seasons even as he gets older.”
DT Morgan Fox
Contract Projection: Two years, $9 million ($4.5M per year); $5 million total guaranteed
“Fox set career-high marks across the board as an interior pass-rusher in 2022, earning a 70.6 pass-rush grade with 40 quarterback pressures on an 11.2% pressure rate.”
“He fits the mold as a pure pass-rusher — he has failed to eclipse 600 snaps in any season of his career and has earned run-defense grades below 50.0 for four consecutive seasons. He’s a late-down rotational player for obvious passing situations, but a lot of teams will covet that skill set come free agency.”
After Kyzir White was allowed to leave in free agency last year, I doubt the Chargers make the same mistake again. Without Tranquill, that room is decimated and the former fourth-round pick has shown to be a versatile piece to a defense that needs impact players at the second level.
Van Noy may have taken his time in 2022 before he recorded his first sack, but a quarterback takedown in five consecutive games to close out a season isn’t bad! It’s unfortunate that his play down the stretch might have pushed him just outside the comfort level of the Chargers to re-sign him, but only time will tell there. I think he has a role here in Los Angeles but I can’t blame him for taking the money elsewhere.
When it comes to Fox, they need to pay this guy. I don’t care if he’s a pass rush specialist, he’s a playmaker and he deserves to play somewhere that will put in the work to make sure he’s in the best situations to impact the football game. That place seems to be here with the Chargers.
For a team that needs to continue improving their pass rush — on the edge and up the middle — Fox is an easy re-sign to make sure they’re not taking a step backwards from this season.
There’s still so much to be done between now and the start of free agency, but I have faith in the Chargers to do what needs to be done to keep the roster competitive. With Brandon Staley having just faced a season that was littered with calls for his job, I predict he’ll be swinging for the fences in any way he can in order to minimize his chances of an exit after year three in LA.