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Chargers have 7 games in 2023 to show they’re contenders

Contract restructures will force the Chargers to partially rebuild in 2024. Could a slow start in 2023 tempt them to start early?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers fanbase doesn’t have the same overlap with the Padres as they used to, now being a healthy blend of Angels and Dodgers fans as well as the Friar Faithful. However, I ask all my bolted brothers and sisters to understand my headspace, as the Padres continue to plummet down the standings after going “All-In” this past offseason. After all, Charger fans know what it feels like to be offseason darlings, only to watch your hopes get crushed in the first half of a season.

There are numerous reasons to be bullish on the Chargers in ‘23. There wasn’t a need to improve many position groups this offseason, as the ‘22 roster was one of the most talented in the league before injuries decimated it. While it was a disappointing season, it was almost the antithesis of the top-heavy rosters of Tom Telesco’s past. Their depth was seemingly their strength, as the “next men up” truly outperformed all expectations and buoyed the season admirably given how many blue-chip players were lost. With greater health luck, and Kellen Moore commanding a much more exciting brand of offense, expectations should be sky-high.

Maintaining the core pieces this offseason was a feat in itself, despite the media’s criticism of Telesco for not making enough “splash” moves. Keeping the band together came at a steep price; as I wrote in May, I’m currently budgeting the Chargers at $83,000,000 over the cap in 2024. Going all-in has leveraged them enough to guarantee some cornerstone veterans will be donning different uniforms next fall.

AJ Preller of the Padres is probably wondering if he left his seat warmer on, and for each early loss the Chargers may endure, Telesco should be feeling the heat as well. If John Spanos wants to be the President of Football Operations in more than just title, he needs to closely monitor the record and overall performance of this team, and take action one way or the other by the trade deadline. Tom has never been a meaningful deadline participant, something that has infuriated the fanbase for years. Winning organizations across the league continue to stockpile talent throughout the regular season, giving their roster somewhat of a “reload” partway through the year.

As such, I’m calling on John Spanos to hold himself and Tom Telesco accountable through this regular season. Come week eight, give a realistic audit of this team’s performance. If they are struggling as they were in 2022, have the courage to start offloading talent and begin the reload early, even if it means you have to part ways with your best buddy Tom. The inevitability of roster reconstruction will be cushioned by the extra draft capital obtained by letting players like Khalil Mack, Mike Williams, or even Joey Bosa depart to true contenders, like Denver did with Von Miller in 2021.

Conversely, if the Chargers show the fight we know they have and come out swinging, step on the league’s throat and be buyers! Seek out contract year talent on transitioning teams, like I mentioned in my Isaiah Simmons article. This fanbase has watched the front office rest on their laurels during the regular season the entirety of Telesco’s tenure. This is the year to be aggressive if the team gets in a groove, because no matter what happens in 2023, there’s a scheduled step back in 2024.

Bolts From the Blue - what are your expectations for the team by the trade deadline? What win total would you need to see to be “buyers” at the deadline, and what win total would put you want to see a sell-off?