With NFL free agency beginning in full swing, the Chargers will have to make a decision on 24 players whose contracts will expire. Here is a list of the team’s pending free agents (Per Ricky Henne/chargers.com) and the salaries they made in 2017 according to Spotrac. The names printed in bold are the players I believe the Chargers should try to re-sign. Remember, a roster make over is not needed, the Chargers were just one reliable kicker away from winning the AFC West and making a serious playoff run last season. Players with an asterisk (*) have been updated after original story was submitted.
Unrestricted Free Agents (14): Unrestricted Free Agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. An Unrestricted Free Agent is free to sign with any club with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.
Jerry Attaochu, 25, DE – ($1,050,775). 2017— Recorded just seven tackles in four games. A former second-round pick in 2014, the oft-injured Attaochu has just 83 total tackles, 10 sacks, 2 pass defensed and 2 forced fumbles in four years in the NFL.
Tre Boston, 25, S – ($900,000). 2017 — After earning the starting free safety spot in the preseason, Boston started 15 of the 16 games he appeared in. He became an instant leader in the secondary, finishing the season with a team-high five interceptions while totaling 79 tackles and eight passes defensed (each number was a career-high). Although he will want a multi-year deal rather than the one-year deal he signed prior to last season, former Arizona Cardinal safety Tyrann Mathieu is now on the market and he could be the difference maker at safety that the team has failed to fill since letting Eric Weddle walk out the door following the 2015 season. Spotrac ran Boston’s stats and compared it to other free safeties with similar numbers to estimate his Fair Market Value — Projection: 5-year contract for $41,057.800 with an average salary of $8,211,560. Mathieu was set to earn $9,300.000 in 2018 (Spotrac) — although he will cost more money and has been injured in his short career, at just 25-years-old, the Chargers should at least offer an incentive-laden contract to the man nicknamed ‘The Honey Badger.’
TE Jeff Cumberland, 30 – ($775,000). 2017 — Signed as a free agent in 2016, Cumberland finally made his way on the field and caught both passes thrown to him. Spent his first season with the Chargers on ‘Reserved-Injured’ due to an Achilles injury he suffered in the second preseason game.
Kellen Clemens, 34, QB – ($900,000). 2017 — Although he is not the future quarterback of the Bolts, Clemens provides a trusted confidant to Philip Rivers. Unless the Chargers find a reliable veteran backup at a cheaper price, Clemens will likely be brought back for one more year while the team selects its future QB in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Antonio Gates, 37, TE – ($5,500,000). 2017 — After setting the all-time record for touchdown receptions for a tight end in NFL history, Gates is likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He finished the year with 30 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns — his lowest production since his rookie year in 2003.
Chris Hairston, 28, OT – ($1,450,000). 2017 — Despite landing on the ‘Reserve/Non-Football Illness’ list early in the season, I would expect Hairston to resign with the Chargers because of his versatility as a swing tackle.
Nick Novak, 36, K – ($900,000). 2017 — Although he solidified the woeful kicking position when he returned to the Chargers for the third time beginning in week 5, the Chargers will not bring him back if a reliable kicker can be found in the draft or free agency.
Michael Ola, 29, OT – ($690,000). 2017 — Brought in to add depth to the offensive line which suffered a slew of injuries, the Chargers will likely move on from Ola in 2018.
Brandon Oliver, 26, RB – ($800,000). 2017 — Appearing in eight games, Oliver finished the season with 83 rushing yards and 26 receiving yards. With an Achilles injury costing him the 2016 season and missing half the 2015 season because of a toe injury, Oliver likely seen is last days as a Charger.
Tenny Palepoi, 27, DT – ($615,000). 2017 — An unheralded lineman who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014, Palepoi had his best year as a pro while establishing career-highs with 24 tackles and one sack while appearing in 15 games last season. With his lower salary, Palepoi could be the beneficiary in both playing time and salary if the team decides to cut or renegotiate the salaries of starting defensive tackles Corey Luigit and Brandon Mebane after June 1.
Michael Schofield, 27, OT – ($694,000). 2017 — One of the best signings days before the season opener, Schofield played in 15 games, including five starts at right tackle for an injured Joe Barksdale. Like Palepoi, Schofield could also benefit if the Chargers decide to let the high-priced Barksdale go after June 1 as well. *Agreed to terms on a two-year contract on March 14.
Matt Slauson, 32, C/G – ($2,000,000). 2017 — Lost for the season after suffering a torn biceps injury against the Broncos in Week 7, Slauson, a team captain on offense, could also become a cap casualty come June 1.
Korey Toomer, 29, LB – ($1,797,000). 2017 — Although he didn’t match his tackling total of 69 in his first year as a Chargers in 2016, he appeared in 15 games with eight starts, totaling 48 tackles, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He also recorded the first pick-six of his four-year NFL career. With Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown missing games because of injury, Toomer’s impressive play has proven he deserves to be re-signed to a multi-year deal.
Kenny Wiggins, 29, OG – ($865,000). 2017 — Wiggins was one of two linemen to start all 16 games of the season along the offensive line for the first time in his eight-year NFL career. Playing with an attitude and meanstreak that most successful linemen possess, he will likely be re-signed with a significant bump in salary. Wiggins played a major role to help anchor an O-Line that gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL (18).
Restricted Free Agents are players with three accrued seasons. A Restricted Free Agent may receive a qualifying offer from their previous team, which is a salary tender predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players. If the Restricted Free Agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because the qualifying offer entitles it to a “right of first refusal” on any offer sheet the player signs. If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer.
Isaiah Burse, 26, WR – ($615,000). 2017 — Missed entire season following an injury he suffered in the preseason and being waived-injured during final roster cuts. 2016 — Appeared in nine games mainly on special teams as the kick/punt returner. Burse could be brought back on a salary-friendly contract as a special teams playmaker.
Asante Cleveland, 25, TE – ($). 2017 — Missed all last season after being ‘waived-injured’ after sustaining an injury early in camp. 2016 — Appeared in four games for the Chargers after being claimed off waivers from New England in 2015.
Geremy Davis, 26, WR – ($615,000). 2017 — Split time between the practice squad and the active roster after he finished the preseason tied for second with nine catches for 68 yards. The 6-3, 217-pound Davis will likely be back to compete for a roster spot. *Agreed to terms on a one-year contract extension March 12.
Nick Dzubnar, 26, LB – ($615,000). 2017 — After leading the league with 21 special teams tackles in addition to his 21 tackles on defense, Dzubnar deserves a salary increase and multi-year contract as he enters his fourth year in the NFL. Dzubnar entered the NFL in 2015 as a non-drafted free agent from Cal Poly-San Louis Obispo. *Agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension March 12.
Chris McCain, 26, DE – ($615,000). 2017 — Set career-highs with 20 tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble as a complementary pass rusher to Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. 2016 — Signed as a free agent from the New Orleans Saints, he spent his 14 games with the Chargers on the practice squad. Expect McCain to sign a multi-year deal for a significant increase in salary to stay with the Chargers. *Team extended contract tender on March 14.
Sean McGrath, 30, TE – ($615,000). 2017 — Tough, hard-nosed veteran tight end will likely be re-signed to help restore the running game. Known for his blocking prowess, McGrath’s ability to get down and dirty in the trenches in addition to his pass catching abilities makes him a valuable asset to the offense — especially if the team doesn’t bring Gates back into the fold.
Adrian Phillips, 25, S – ($690,000). 2017 — The versatile Phillips set career-highs in tackles (63), passes defensed (five) and interceptions (two) while seeing action in 15 games as both a safety and linebacker in certain packages. Phillips should get a salary increase if he re-signs with the Chargers. *Agreed to terms on a one-year contract on March 14.
Andre Williams, 25, RB – ($690,000). 2017 — Mainly a special teams player, a wrist injury forced Williams to finish the season on IR (injured reserve). He had nine carries for 25 yards during the season.
Tyrell Williams, 26, WR – ($525,000). 2017 — Although he didn’t match last year’s numbers, he still finished the season with 43 catches for 728 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 16.9 yards per catch. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, the three-year veteran led all NFL receivers last season in yards after catch (8.0), while scoring multiple touchdowns over 75 yards. Williams will get a significant salary increase whether he re-signs with the Chargers or goes elsewhere. *Team extended contact tender on March 14.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (1). Exclusive Rights Free Agents are players with two years of NFL experience. If their team tenders them with a qualifying offer, the Exclusive Rights Free Agent is not eligible to sign with any other team.
Kaleb Eulls, 26, DT – ($525,000). 2017 — Eulls missed the entire season after suffering an injury during the preseason. He finished the 2016 season on the Chargers’ active roster.
The Endzone: In an article dated March 2, Staff Analyst Adam Thompson (Sportsline) believes Tre Boston is the free agent from the Chargers likely to sign with another team. Said Thompson, “Boston started all 16 games and intercepted five passes with 79 total tackles. Re-signing him will be an off-season goal for the Chargers.” Here is the latest first-round mock drafts for the Chargers from the analysts at the NFL Network — Charley Casserly: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama; Daniel Jeremiah: Derwin James, S, Florida St.; Bucky Brooks: Vita Vea, DT, Washington; Charles Davis: Derwin James, S, Florida St.; Lance Zierlein: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama and Chad Reuter: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma.