The Los Angeles Chargers will enter the 2021 offseason with a ton of optimism for the future. The team hired former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their head coach, and the belief here is that Staley and his dynamic defensive scheme, aggressive nature, and his attention to detail will pay huge dividends for this ball club. Very rarely do teams have as bad of a season as the Chargers did last year and come away feeling good about the overall outlook of their roster. However, in the Chargers' case, their 7-9 finish (which included four straight wins to end the year) was primarily due to poor coaching decisions, special teams, and injuries, not necessarily due to a lack of talent.
The Chargers return a roster that has a lot of talent, and talent at key positions no less. The team will be led by quarterback Justin Herbert, who will look to build on a record-setting rookie campaign. Along with Herbert, the offense will have Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, and Trai Turner all returning next season. On the defensive side of the football, the team returns Joey Bosa, who is fresh off another Pro Bowl season, Derwin James, who will be back healthy after missing last season with a knee injury, Kenneth Murray, who will only get better as he continues to develop, and Casey Hayward, who is still playing at a high level.
There is still work to be done, however, and with the players who could be leaving in free agency as well as the holes that this roster does have, general manager Tom Telesco and his personnel staff will have their hands full this offseason adding talent through both the draft and free agency. While we tend to focus on the draft and how teams can improve their roster through drafting well and acquiring picks, that is just one part of the equation. If done wisely, adding talent in free agency can have just as big of an impact as adding top talent through the draft, and that’s actually something the Chargers don’t get enough credit for.
The Chargers' pro personnel staff has been one of the best in the entire NFL in finding quality free agents. They wisely identified players such as Hayward in 2016 when he was viewed primarily as a nickel-only defensive back and signed him to a deal—and he has since made two Pro Bowls. They signed Russell Okung to a big deal in 2017 and he was one of the better offensive tackles in the league with the Chargers before succumbing to health issues that weren't football related, and the team also added Mike Pouncey in free agency to shore up their center position back in 2018. These three signings are just examples of the pro personnel department identifying players that fit what the Chargers were looking for and all three ended up being Pro Bowl players for them.
As we inch closer to the start of free agency, which is set to begin March 17, I wanted to spend some time and discuss a few free agents on the offensive side of the football the Chargers could look to add this offseason. Now, will these players ultimately become available? With the franchise tag as an option, who knows? But for now, these are a few names for Chargers fans to keep tabs on as March 17 inches closer.
Taylor Moton, OT, Carolina Panthers
Moton has quietly been one of the best young left tackles in all of football. I’d wager there’s very little chance that Carolina lets him walk, but if there is a scenario where he hits the open market, the Chargers should be the first call he sees on his phone. Adding a premier left tackle via free agency or the draft needs to be priority No. 1 for Los Angeles. The Chargers cannot go into next season with Sam Tevi or Trey Pipkins as their top options to protect Herbert’s blindside. They simply must improve there and adding a player of Moton’s caliber in free agency would be a home run. Moton has outstanding length and athleticism for the position and his ability to mirror and slide against speed rushers is excellent. He generates good movement in the running game, playing with good leverage and showing good power in his hips and lower half. At just 26 years of age, Moton would give the Chargers a franchise offensive tackle for the next five or so years.
Corey Linsley, C, Green Bay Packers
A common theme you’ll see when reading Chargers offseason content, the team needs offensive line help. With Pouncey missing most of the season with a hip injury, the Chargers had to roll with a mixture of Dan Feeney and Scott Quessenberry at center—again, that can’t be the case next season. Center is arguably one of the most important positions on the offense, and having a difference-making center can have a huge impact on the offense overall. I witnessed this firsthand when the Chargers signed Pouncey to replace a serviceable Spencer Pulley. Just the amount of second-level blocks and reach blocks Pouncey could get to that Pulley simply couldn’t due to a lack of athleticism was quite eye-opening. I am a huge believer in having an above-average player at the center position and I believe the Chargers can clearly upgrade here. Linsley had a career year with the Packers last season, establishing himself to be one of the best centers in the NFL. Having him in front of Herbert would be a massive upgrade for this offense and could also open up this team’s running game.
Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers
Running back isn’t a massive need for the Chargers, but I do believe it’s a position they can look to add some depth and talent. Ekeler is a fantastic player and one of the best receiving running backs in the league, but I personally don’t believe he should be utilized like a three-down back. He is at his best being deployed in certain situations and lining him up all across the formation utilizing his dynamic skill set. Having a bigger back to compliment what Ekeler brings to the table would be a wise move for the Chargers. Williams is a big, physical, downhill runner who is exactly the type of back that would fit in with Ekeler. With the Packers having A.J. Dillon waiting in the wings and the potential to re-sign Aaron Jones, I could see them letting Williams walk and this could be a cost-effective signing that the Chargers can make that will help this offense be more physical running the football.
- Jun 28, 2022
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