If i was the GM of the Chargers
As most diehard sports fans like to do, regardless of what team you root for, they love to play couch GM. It’s kind of a fun exercise and sometimes people actually come up with good and often times creative ideas. In this hypothetical situation where I was Tom Telesco or just the GM of the Chargers in general what would I do? Well the truth is I actually have a fairly good idea of how I would manage the roster. Now in this situation I’m still going to be realistic with a hint of “that would be the day” mentality. I know people have mixed feelings about Tom Telsco one way or another but I’m simply not taking into consideration the GM’s previous history because given the roster how it currently is constructed this is about what I would do moving forward.
Next year it is said that the league plans on increasing the total maximum salary cap allowed. This season it is a maximum of 187 million dollars and next season is said to be set at anywhere between 197 – 201 million. This is helpful but its league wide so it would be a level playing field for everyone and this is done to account for players ever growing salary inflation. Next season the Chargers are due to have 57.7 million to play with and even though this is a juicy sounding number that may be ever enticing, it is misleading. This number is the figure before players are re-signed or extended and the Chargers have plenty of both. In fact 24 players are set to have their contracts expire at seasons end and about half of which are those of notable names.
One VERY IMPORTANT side note before i mention this years current free agents would be to mention the importance of Joey Bosa. He is on the 5th and last year of his contract which happened to be an option year that had been previously picked up. This team cannot afford another offseason contract negotiation dispute. I would be preemptive and start the negotiation process with him now and see if i could get an extension done early or at the very least start the process. Bosa is a top three defensive end in the NFL and i wouldn’t bother trying to be cheap. I would pay this man what he wants, he has earned it! He will likely require close to 120 million to retain long term and i wouldn’t even mind committing to that contract.
Now with this years free agents first things first and that is the team must simply extend Rivers and preferably for two seasons. He currently has a base salary of 20 million and if he could possibly be obtained at a slightly cheaper rate, say 18, I would do so. The fact remains that the quarterback market value is probably around 28 million so him taking less would be strictly for the greater good of the team but I wouldn’t make a giant fuss over it if he is reluctant. I don’t see him asking for a whole lot more I would say 20 million max. I know there are more than a fair share of people out there who wish to move off of Rivers yet you must consider that nobody in this year’s draft class outside of Joe Burrow is capable of being a starter right away. Guys like Tua and Herbert are great talents however due to injury for Tua and the type of system Herbert was in, it would be behoove any franchise to sit them for their rookie year. Taking that into consideration and given the state of the offensive line a rookie QB simply wouldn’t be in a position to exceed and possibly even ruin their long term development.
Next up is the running backs. As much as I would love for them to extend Melvin Gordon, I fear that the relationship with the front office has been tarnished and he will likely walk unfortunately. Austin Ekeler on the other hand cannot be afforded to walk. Even though he is not an every down back he has great versatility and I would start negotiations at 7.5 million.
The other important offensive piece is tight end Hunter Henry. I would sincerely try to extend Henry right now for 4 years. The market value for tight ends is around the 8.5 million dollar mark. However due to missing 1 full year with a torn ACL and factoring in other minor injuries that kept him out for a few games here and there one can imagine there might be wiggle room to negotiate low. He only makes 1.5 million right now and it may be a situation where he may be happy with accepting 6.6 – 7 million a year.
A much cheaper option to retain would be corner Michael Davis. The team picked him up as an undrafted free agent out of BYU. While I do believe the team should draft another corner that could possibly slot in as the starter opposite of Casey Hayward, Davis would make for a great asset to retain for depth purposes. Typically most teams carry 5 corners and he would make a good 4th spot on the depth chart. He makes 1.6 million this season and would likely resign for 2.1 million on say a 1 year deal.
I would also bring back Sylvester Williams for defensive tackle depth. Williams didn’t start the season with the team and was brought in after the first 6 weeks of the season. He provided an upgrade in the run defense category yet was only used sparingly and understandably so. he finished the season with a 69 overall pro football grade which was higher than any other interior lineman on the team.
Derek Watt would be the last player I would resign as the team simply doesn’t have the time to search out for a replacement. He is a viable above average fullback and a very good pro bowl caliber special team’s player. In fact he is loved by the fans and players in the locker room alike. I would give him a two year deal at 2.8-3 million a year.
Let them walk
The following players are guys that I would let walk and test free agency without even second guessing myself. This could be for either one of two reasons. Either the player hasn’t really left an impact on this team and is expendable and or the team could save money and use it elsewhere on a guy who is due a decent payday. Some of the players mentioned are talented and some could even end up preforming well on another team.
- Travis Benjamin (never lived up to the contract)
- Jatavis Brown
- Trent Scott (you already know why)
- Michael Schofield (more of a good back up than a starter)
- Lance Kendricks
- Spencer Drango
- Marcus Hardison
- Nick Dzubnar ( good special teams player but replaceable for the price tag)
- Troymaine Pope
- Ryan Groy
- Geremy davis
The two other players that I am electing to let walk are two that people are going to feel debatable about. Those two players are Adrian Phillips and Isaac Rochell. Rochell had some mild success in his rookie year but undoubtably fell off the radar this year making very little impact at all. He is just taking snaps away from Uchenna Nwosu at this point who has much higher upside. This move isn’t necessarily a negative against Rochell as much as it is that I just want more playing time for Nwosu who was only receiving less than 18 snaps per game. Adrian Phillips is a fan favorite and for a very good reason. Phillips is a very hard worker and a great personality to have in the locker room. He is also a good special team’s player who subs in on dime packages. This move is strictly to save money. I also believe that Rayshawn Jenkins would be a better fit for Phillips role. Jenkins is better off closer to the line of scrimmage and is a natural strong safety that played out of position all year at free safety. When Phillips comes in on dime packages he is essentially lined up shallow like an extra linebacker so this would fit Jenkins. This role could ultimately fit Kyzir White or Drue Tranquill who are also converted safeties. Point being there are plenty of options to fill this same role so the team could save this money to put towards free agency.
Players to cut:
First and foremost I would not hesitate to cut Thomas Davis whose contract was back loaded on the second year to make this decision very easy. He did have a productive year statistically however that is a bit misleading because he was targeted in coverage so much more than any other player by far. This will only continue to get worse as opposing offenses view him as a major weakness, hence the high tackle total.
The other player I would consider cutting is purely circumstantial and that player is Brandon Mebane. I say circumstantial because there are more than a handful of good options at the same position and most of which are younger upgrades. I wouldn’t cut him unless I could sign the likes of say A’shawn Robinson, Danny Shelton, Michael Brockers, or Ndamukong Suh. Mebane finished the season with a 48.7 overall defensive grade according to pro football focus. By signing one of these guys you can essentially view it as a trade in for an upgrade. Basically giving Mebane’s money to a more viable option at the same position.
Draft strategy and the ultimate set up:
It’s no surprise what the Chargers draft needs are and some people out there are rating quarterback as top need instead of offensive tackle. Some people’s logic is that if you have a mobile quarterback then it doesn’t matter if the line is bad. To me that is a very lazy assessment and since this is my hypothetical situation I’m bringing Rivers back so offensive tackle is at the top of my draft board. I may say this is rightfully so as there are 3 top 15 worthy offensive tackles this year. If either one of Thomas, Wirfs, or Willis is there at the sixth pick then they must select one of them. They should not pass up the opportunity to select an elite tackle. Sometimes crazy and unexpected things happen in the draft so the only other position’s that should be acceptable at this pick are nose tackle Derrick Brown from Auburn. This of course is pending depending on what goes down in free agency. If a nose tackle and or corner is taken in the first round the next two picks ( 2nd & 3rd round) should be offensive line. Fortunately this year’s offensive tackle class is really deep and should still be very viable options at the top of the second round. Even so I would follow the third round pick up with a guard regardless if an offensive tackle is taken in the first or second. Ideally the first 4 rounds should be lineman, preferably 2 offensive and 1 defensive. The other positions of need are corner and slot receiver but i am willing to risk finding a gem in later rounds or selecting one or the other in those top 4 rounds depending on how the draft goes. The game is won in the trenches and just simply makes all other pieces operate more smoothly and that goes for both sides of the ball. For those of you surprised that I may be willing to take a nose tackle with the 6th overall I pick I say look no further than San Francisco and see what stacking a defensive line does for the team. As of right now the team has great edge rushers but an elite nose tackle that could occupy two gap technique would not only get the most out of Bosa and Ingram but also get the most potential out of a young talented linebacker core who could use some help in the run defense department.
The big plot twist, if you want to call it that, is that I am preemptively setting this roster up for the next quarterback to have a successful and smooth transition. Who might I be talking about if I’m not selecting a quarterback this offseason? That man would be none other than Trevor Lawrance! Now I realize this is a bit of a stretch as we most likely won’t have the first overall pick next year. However if the right pieces are retained and the Chargers can hold on to the talent already on the roster by resigning the guys I’ve listed above and even do everything possible to retain Joey Bosa long term than the team could afford to trade a first round pick for the next say 3 seasons. I know this isn’t something the Chargers do but again this is my hypothetical situation where I’m the GM.
There is also another scenario that is much more risky to solve the quarterback situation. I’m not as big of a fan of the second scenario as I am with this one but it leaves the team with two possibilities of who could be the guy moving forward. To read about what the second scenario and likely less popular of the two, stay tuned for the next article.