With the NFL Combine underway and free agency opening on March 9, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco has some major decisions to make. Entering the most important offseason in franchise history, it is vital that Telesco, John Spanos and the rest of the front office secure a few impact players (ala the Denver Broncos) if they have any hopes of getting public support behind the stadium initiative to be voted on this November.
Last year at this time, Telesco re-signed his top two in-house free agents, left tackle King Dunlap and cornerback Brandon Flowers, to multi-year contracts. He also signed guard Orlando Franklin (Broncos), right tackle Joe Barksdale (Rams) and wide receiver Stevie Johnson (49ers) off the free agent market.
At first glance, each of those signings appeared to be key maneuvers that would contribute to a playoff run the likes of 2013. However, aside from Barksdale, injures and inconsistent performance on the field derailed the other four signees.
The Chargers have 16 unrestricted free agents, five restricted free agents and three exclusive rights free agents.
With reports having the NFL cap increasing to $155 million for the 2016 season, the Chargers’ available cap space is a little over $30 million (UT’s Michael Gehlkin). Picking No. 3 in the draft, most pundits in their first mock draft have the Chargers taking one of three players — Laremy Tunsil (OT), Joey Bosa (DE) or Jalen Ramsey (CB/S).
Whether it be through free agency, the draft or both, there will be a number of talented players who could come in and become instant starters on a Chargers team that has numerous holes to fill. In this article we’ll focus on offense where the concern is at OT, C, TE and WR.
Recently, CBS Senior NFL Analyst Pete Prisco listed his top-50 NFL Free Agents — leaving off the list the “big-name” players likely to be tagged by their own team. He also left off Restricted Free Agents and instead concentrated on younger players he feels are “on the way up,” concentrating on players mainly between the age of 25-28.
Here are a few players from his list who play at positions the Chargers are looking to fill or add depth too. His rankings are in parenthesis followed by a quote on each player — salary information is provided via Spotrac. Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name were included in the story because of their versatility to play two positions — which is a must for a Chargers team that has been decimated by injuries over the past few years.
Cordy Glenn, OT, Buffalo Bills (#3). “He is a good player in pass protection at the all-important left tackle spot. That’s a need position where a lot of teams have issues.” 2015 salary $1,548.012. Glenn was franchise tagged over the weekend.
Kaleche Osemele,* OG, Baltimore Ravens (#4). “He has been a productive starter at guard, but has also started at tackle. He would be a nice upgrade for a lot of teams, but the price could be high.” 2015 salary $1,064.595.
Andre Smith, OT, Cincinnati Bengals (#17). “He had some injury issues last season, but he’s been an above-average starter in the past three years. For teams in need of a right tackle, he would make a lot of sense.” 2015 salary $6,362.500.
Alex Boone*, OG, San Francisco 49ers (#22) — “He is a good guard who could also slide outside to play right tackle. There’s value in versatility.” 2015 salary $3,000,000.
Mitchell Schwartz, RT, Cleveland Browns (#25) — “His play slipped a little last season, but he’s still a quality starting right tackle who has been a four-year starter. That means something.” 2015 salary $1,292,710.
Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns (#19). “He will almost certainly void his contract — which he can do — to become a free agent. He will be the top center on any list.” 2015 salary $8,400,000.
Ben Jones*, C, Houston Texans (#38). “He moved from guard to center last year and had a decent first season there as the starter. He isn’t overpowering, but he is smart and athletic.” 2015 salary $645,362.
Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (#18). “He is a good No 2 receiver who I don’t think can be a No. 1. But there’s value in having a player with his talents on your offense.” 2015 salary $565,700.
Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland Browns (#45). “He has big-play speed and can also help in the return game. There’s value in that.” 2015 salary $644,250.
Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts (#46). “He’s a pass-catching tight end who hasn’t lived up to the hype. Even so, he has the ability to catch 60 or so passes a season.” 2015 salary $1,699,615.
The Endzone: Chargers Unrestricted Free Agents (16): Joe Barksdale ($1,095,000), Kellen Clemens, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates ($7,235,000), Ladarius Green ($637,725), Chris Hairston ($685,000), David Johnson, Jeff Linkenbach, Ricardo Mathews ($925,000), Joe Mays, John Phillips, Kendall Reyes ($1,031,998), Patrick Robinson ($2,000,000), Cassius Vaughn, J.D. Walton and Eric Weddle. Restricted Free Agents (4): Jahleel Addae ($586,668), Brandian Ross, Damion Square, Johnnie Troutman. Exclusive Rights Free Agents: Dontrelle Inman ($472,500), Cordarro Law ($465,000) and Kenny Wiggins. Chargers’ players with salaries listed are likely in-house players the organization would like to retain.