Analysis

Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency Outlook

Los Angeles Chargers Free Agency Preview

The Los Angeles Chargers missed the 2021 NFL playoffs by the slimmest of margins, losing on an overtime field goal in a just-don’t-lose game against the Las Vegas Raiders that was very nearly the most captivating tie in league history. Under first-year head coach Brandon Staley, the Chargers finished 9-8 as they were poised to make the playoffs after sitting 8-5 heading into Week 15. A Week 16 loss to the lowly Texans coupled with their loss to the Raiders dashed all hopes of the franchise’s first playoff appearance under quarterback Justin Herbert. The sophomore signal-caller tied for third in the league with 38 passing touchdowns and ranked second in passing yards as he broke the 5,000-yard barrier. 

The Chargers have just three unrestricted free agents that played over 70% of snaps in 2021 and are set up well for the future as they entered 2021 with the 15th youngest roster in the league. Los Angeles projects to have the third-most cap space in the league at over $56 million and is well-poised to bolster their roster and make the playoffs in 2022. 

Update: The Chargers now have $42,316,690 available in cap space.

Chargers’ Impending Free Agents

  • LB Kyzir White
  • LG Michael Schofield
  • WR Mike Williams
    • Re-signed for 3-year, $60 million deal
  • EDGE Uchenna Nwosu
  • CB Chris Harris Jr.
  • TE Jared Cook
  • DT Linval Joseph
  • DT Christian Covington
  • DT Justin Jones
  • K Dustin Hopkins
  • EDGE Kyler Fackrell
  • TE Stephen Anderson
  • LS Matt Overton
  • RG Oday Aboushi
  • RB Justin Jackson
  • LG Scott Quessenberry
  • RG Senio Kelemete
  • CB Davontae Harris
  • CB Ryan Smith
  • WR Andre Roberts
  • QB Chase Daniel
  • WR Jalen Guyton (ERFA)
  • RT Storm Norton (ERFA)
  • TE Donald Parham (ERFA)
  • P Ty Long (RFA)
  • S Trey Marshall (RFA)

By far the most important free agent for the Chargers is wide receiver Mike Williams, who is not only one of the best receivers but one of the best free agents, regardless of position, in this year’s class. Playing on his fifth-year option, the 7th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft registered 76 catches for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns. Williams ranked fourth in yards per reception among all receivers to rack up at least four receptions a game and helped elevate Justin Herbert’s game. Other important offensive free agents include tight ends Jared Cook and Donald Parham. The former did have 564 receiving yards but will be 35 before the 2022 season begins, while the latter is an exclusive rights free agent and likely to return to the Chargers. 

On defense, the most important free agents are cornerback Chris Harris Jr., defensive tackle Linval Joseph, and edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu. Harris Jr. will be 33 by the start of 2022 and started to show some signs of his age in 2021 but remains an experienced player at an in-demand position. Joseph had an impressive 57 tackles in 14 games last season but will turn 34 during the 2022 season and is probably a better fit as a rotational defensive tackle. Nwosu recorded four of his five sacks from Week 13 onwards and is just 25 with room to grow. 

Franchise Tag 

The Chargers did have a candidate that would make sense for the franchise tag in wide receiver Mike Williams, and ultimately made the move to tag and then extend him. A bonafide deep threat, re-signing Williams ensures Herbert retains one of his top weapons.

Team Needs

  1. Edge
  2. Defensive Tackle
  3. Cornerback
  4. Right Tackle 
  5. Wide Receiver
  6. Tight End

Los Angeles has their top pass rusher in Joey Bosa (who managed his fourth double-digit sack season in just six years despite playing in only 12 games) but is still searching for a reliable rusher across from him. The team moved on from longtime edge rusher Melvin Ingram before 2021 and with Nwosu and fellow edge rusher Kyler Fackrell free agents, this is a position of high priority. The Chargers have three defensive tackles – Joseph, Christian Covington, and Justin Jones – who are free agents and played over 40% of snaps in 2021. Additional depth and talent at this position to secure the run defense will be necessary. 

At cornerback, the likely departure of Harris Jr. will open up more playing time for Asante Samuel Jr. across from cornerback Michael Davis, but the depth behind those two is shaky at best. The Chargers hit a homerun with first-round left tackle Rashawn Slater in 2021, but the other bookend of their offensive line was an issue. Brian Bulaga played in just one game in 2021 and Storm Norton had a rough year, encapsulated by an evisceration in Week 18 against the Raiders thanks to Maxx Crosby. Herbert’s receiving corps needs to be revamped as the free agencies of Williams, Cook, and Parham loom large despite Keenan Allen’s presence.