In this report on Free Agency we focus on the defense where three starters manning the Chargers secondary are set to hit the open market when the NFL calendar begins March 10. The belief around San Diego sports talk radio is GM Tom Telesco’s main focus will be re-signing cornerback Brandon Flowers and filling other needs on the team before retaining the services of safety Marcus Gilchrist and cornerback Shareece Wright.
With the defense finishing 26th against the run (124 yds. per gm.) and 29th in sacks (7), it is clear the defense needs to improve big-time for any kind of success in 2015. As good as defensive end Corey Liuget has proven to be, the defense needs a legitimate 3-4 tackle to stuff the run and another impact pass rusher to pressure the quarterback.
The linebacker corps, when healthy, has shown the talent to be one of top young units in the league. However, thanks to recurring injuries to the likes of Donald Butler, Melvin Ingram, Manti Te’o and rookie Jerry Attaochu, they have yet to develop into that cohesive unit it takes to be a dominating defense.
Recently, Spotrac listed the Chargers’ top 10 free agents based on their 2014 salary cap hit and among the players listed, six were on offense. Of the six players, only offensive tackle King Dunlap will command a big contract where receiver Eddie Royal and running back Ryan Mathews will likely be signed to team-friendly contracts if they return.
The retirements of Nick Hardwick and Jeromy Clarey gives Telesco some much-needed cap space to negotiate with. Below is a look at the four players on the Chargers’ top 10 free agent list who are on the defensive side of the ball.
Coming in at No. 4 is outside linebacker Dwight Freeney at $4,078,000. Signed as a free agent in 2013, Freeney looked impressive before tearing his quad in just the fourth game of the season against the Dallas Cowboys. Although he took a $ 1 million pay cut to help the team last March, I believe Telesco goes the youth-movement route rather than bringing back Freeney, who turns 35 later this month.