clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chargers head coach candidates and their free-agent connections

Should Jim Harbaugh find his way to the Chargers, which pending free agents could join him in Los Angeles?

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

When teams hire new head coaches, it’s almost like clockwork that some of their former players who played under them at their previous stop find their way back them. When it came to Brandon Staley, he eventually signed defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day and linebacker Troy Reeder (Rams), traded for edge rusher Khalil Mack (Bears), and added cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Essang Bassey (Broncos).

Whoever becomes the next head coach of the Chargers, the same will likely happen at some point. With that in mind, here are four top head-coaching candidates for the Chargers and several pending 2024 free agents who could follow them to their next potential stop.

Jim Harbaugh

Free agent connections

  • OG Mike Onwenu
  • EDGE Josh Uche
  • OG Jon Runyan
  • DT Maurice Hurst

Harbaugh seems to be the number one choice for most Chargers fans and he’s got a decent group of former Michigan players who are set to be free agents next year.

A pair of Patriots in Onwenu and Uche are intriguing. Onwenu has inside-outside versatility along the offensive line while Uche is an elite athlete with an explosive step off the edge.

Runyan is the son of Hall-of-Famer Jon Runyan Sr. who played 14 seasons in the NFL as an offensive tackle, including nine with the Philadelphia Eagles. After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Runyan has played in 66 games with 49 starts to his name, mainly at left and right guard for the Packers.

Hurst started 14 games for the Raiders during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He recorded 7.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, and an interception. However, he has just three starts over the past three seasons and he’s currently on his third team (Browns). While playing in a rotational role in 2023, he has 1.5 sacks and four tackles for loss in 13 games.

Mike Macdonald

Free agent connections

  • DT Justin Madubuike
  • EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
  • LB Patrick Queen
  • S Geno Stone
  • DT Michael Pierce

Should Macdonald wind up getting a head-coaching job this cycle, he’ll have the opportunity to recruit a number of pending free agent from the Ravens defense. This group is headlined by Madubuike who is currently in the midst of his first breakout season in the NFL. The interior defender has 12 sacks on the year, nearly twice the total he recorded over his first three seasons in the NFL. Veteran defensive tackle Pierce is also crushing it in his age-31 season.

Youngsters Queen and Stone will likely want to stick around the team that drafted them, but don’t underestimate the lure of “the bag” somewhere else. Both players will be 25 years old next season with a ton of their best football ahead of them. Stone is currently tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions.

Ben Johnson

Free agent connections

  • TE Brock Wright
  • RB Craig Reynolds
  • WR Josh Reynolds

There aren’t a ton of young and exciting players from the Lions that are set to be free agents in 2024 but these three listed above are at least worth a look as depth pieces with their familiarity in Johnson’s system.

Wright is the most interesting to me as he’ll be just 26 years old during the 2024 season and he’s been about as productive as you could want as a backup with seven touchdowns and 43 receptions over his last three seasons. He could stand to improve as a run-blocker, but his 6’5, 250-pound frame is already better suited for the job than what the Chargers currently have in the position room.

The pair of Reynolds feature a journeyman running back and a veteran wideout who is currently having his best season as a pro in year seven.

Craig Reynolds has just 515 rushing yards in his five-year career and a lone touchdown. He’s not someone I would probably look at as a priority by any means but coaches always love bringing in guys they know in hope they can help accelerate the learning process.

Josh Reynolds’ 564 receiving yards are the second most in a season for him while his five touchdowns ties a career high. His 16.1 yards per receptions in 2023 is also the highest it’s ever been.

Bill Belichick

Free agent connections

  • LB Mack Wilson
  • EDGE Josh Uche
  • OG Mike Onwenu
  • S Kyle Duggar
  • CB Myles Bryant

Both Uche and Onwenu were discussed above but they are two overlapping players with Bill Belichick’s name being thrown around almost as often as Harbaugh’s.

Kyle Duggar was a do-it-all safety with freakish athleticism coming out of Lenoir-Rhyne in 2020. In four seasons with the Patriots, he has 337 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, nine interceptions, 20 pass breakups, and two defensive touchdowns. His addition could prove to be redundant with James still on the roster, but it felt wrong not to mention one of the better players who could follow Belichick to his next destination (should that even happen).

Wilson started 28 games for the Browns from 2019-2021 before joining the Patriots the last two seasons. He’s been mainly a rotational player, recording just four starts in the past 33 games. He has played just 296 snaps in 2023 but it’s been his highest-graded season thus far from Pro Football Focus.

Bryant has been with the Patriots the past four seasons where he has 16 total starts to his name. This season has been his best with career highs in tackles (77), pass breakups (seven), forced fumbles (two), and tackles for loss (seven).