2014 Team Needs: San Diego Chargers

On the eve of the 2014 free agency period, Cole Schultz has a look into San Diego's most pressing needs.

| 3 years ago
2014-Teams-Needs-SD

2014 Team Needs: San Diego Chargers


2014-Teams-Needs-SDA divisional round defeat will linger on as a missed opportunity, but the Chargers’ season up until that point has to be considered a success. After squeaking into the playoffs thanks to a four-game winning streak to end the season, San Diego handed Cincinnati an embarrassing home loss before being taken down by the Broncos a week later. At any rate, the offense was phenomenal, and Philip Rivers seemed to have gotten out of the funk he’s been in the last few years.

But 9-7 doesn’t often grant you a playoff spot, so the Chargers must improve if they want to compete again in 2014. While the offense clicked, the defense gave up 20 or more points in all but five of their regular season games. Rivers and company may be able to mask that to an extent, but Mike McCoy would rather have a more balanced team in his second year as head coach. General Manager Tom Telesco has already done well re-signing Donald Butler, who, despite a down year, has shown himself a capable starter in the past. The inside linebacker need has been filled, but there’s still work to be done, especially on defense.

Potential Cap Casualties

With a shade over $5 million in cap room even after the massive cap hike, the Chargers may look to cut some of their more overpaid players in an effort to get some value out of what little space they do have. They aren’t in the best of spots to increase this space either, as there are only a handful of players they see meaningful savings by cutting without leaving a massive roster hole.

–  Like many others, the Chargers have already started their offseason cuts, with fullback Le’Ron McClain and his $3+ million 2014 cap hit gone. Also gone is cornerback Derek Cox and his team-low -14.6 coverage grade.

–  Jettisoning off the largely ineffective Jeromey Clary is an option as well, with $4.5 million in savings to be had. While cutting Clary would leave a hole at right guard, it shouldn’t be very difficult to find someone to fill in at a much more reasonable price.

–  With the emergence of Keenen Allen and the expected return of the injured Malcolm Floyd, Eddie Royal and his $4.5 million salary become a luxury that might just be too rich for the cash-strapped Chargers.

Team Needs

Cornerback

Easily the weakest spot on the roster, San Diego pulled off the rare feat of having four different cornerbacks on achieve a coverage grade below -10.0. Cox has already been cut, Johnny Patrick has been waived and claimed by the Jets, and San Diego will be looking for any way to keep Richard Marshall and Shareece Wright off the field. Behind them it’s just a handful of young guys with little to no career playing time.

Free agent fix: Luckily for the Chargers, their position of weakness is complemented by a strong free agent class. They may not be able to afford the big money free agents like Aquib Talib or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but the dearth of talent at the top of the class should lower the price on those in the lower tiers. With five young and talented corners at the top of everyone’s wish list, it may not be too hard to land a guy like Tarell Brown or an aging Charles Tillman on a cheap, short-term deal. Tillman is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off an season-ending injury, but he has shown elite play in the past against some of the best receivers out there, which may be worth taking a flyer on, especially if the price is right. Meanwhile, Brown is the safer pick. He’s averaged over 1,000 snaps per season for the 49ers over the past three years, and in each one he has graded positively. At 29 years of age, Brown could easily come in and contribute for a few years at a much higher level than anything the Chargers saw a season ago.

Defensive End

Another sore spot on the Chargers’ defense last season, San Diego had trouble getting consistent play from its defensive linemen. Kendall Reyes graded negatively in every facet of play, while Corey Liuget got pushed around in the running game despite posting decent pass rushing numbers. Unlike the cornerback position, defensive linemen are subbed out much more frequently, making depth at this position all the more crucial.

Free agent fix: There isn’t quite the young, high-end talent like there is with corners, but that matters little to a team not looking to break the bank for their guy. With experience in the 3-4 and at 28 years of age, Arthur Jones would be an excellent fit to help clog up the running lanes. Not the splashiest player around, Jones nonetheless does his job and does it well- over the past two years, Jones has graded in the green 13 times compared to five in the red. Antonio Smith would give San Diego an additional interior pass rush, but it remains to be seen if the older Smith will keep up that level play as long as Jones can.

Guard

With the ILB spot taken care of thanks to Butler’s recent contract, we turn to the one spot on offense that could really use an upgrade. If Clary somehow makes the 2014 roster, he’ll easily be the biggest liability on that offensive line, although left guard Johnnie Troutman (-13.1 last season) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. San Diego hasn’t taken an interior lineman in any of the early rounds recently, so this appears to be a prime spot to grab someone in free agency.

Free agent fix: Again, with cap space being hard to come by, San Diego may look for an older player as a stopgap knowing that the premium for his services won’t be as high. Less than a year older than Clary, the Chargers may be able to sign Willie Colon with the potential savings from cutting Clary. He’s not the best run blocker around (still better than Clary), but he surrendered just 18 pressures (one sack, three hits, 14 hurries) in 580 pass blocking snaps last year. With the Jets’ offense sputtering last year, Colon will be out of the spotlight and may come cheap. You just have to hope that the 12 penalties he committed last year was an anomaly.

 

  • MachoMenos

    Eddie Royal’s contract was restructured this past week because Floyd was still wearing a neck brace to bed 3 weeks ago and Danario Alexander had yet another operation on his knee a month ago. Although Keenan, Eddie and Vincent make a solid trio I wouldn’t be surprised if Telesco drafted or looked for a speedy WR to stretch the field making Woodhead, Gates and Green (and Mathews, to a lesser extent) even more problematic for opposing defenses.

    Our biggest concern offensively is getting a replacement for Jeromey Clary. Although he wasn’t his usual terrible self in pass protection his run blocking went from bad to worse. Although I doubt Telesco would spend our first round pick on someone like Xavier Si’a-Filo I hope and expect that Clary and his ridiculous contract are gone for good and replaced by training camp or even sooner if the Gods be good.

    While I agree with you on Richard Marshall, I believe Shareece Wright played well enough down the stretch to warrant keeping him as a starting CB. Although I would love if Tarell Brown became a Charger I don’t think they’ll be able to afford him. How high the Chargers draft a CB depends on how well they believe Shareece will do this season and how much faith they have on the return of Steve Williams from a lost rookie season.

    Our D-line is another matter. While I still have faith in Corey Luiget (he basically played the entire season injured, IMO) Reyes is a tough nut to crack. He seems lost out there at times. While Sean Lissemore did a yeoman’s job replacing Cam Thomas we need a real NT in our defense and someone to at least compete with Reyes. Whether through the draft (Nix, Ellis or ?) or through FA (Arthur Jones, Paul Soliai) I believe these two spots are our biggest needs not CB.

    BTW- Yes, Pat Sims was monstruously good at the end of the season. While I didn’t see his week 16 performance against the Donkeys, his week 15 effort against the Bolts was incredible. The man could not be moved. He was in on play after play. The only reason I would shy away from him is how many times do we see a player who is primed to become a free agent start playing brilliantly only to reel it in once he signs for the big bucks? Would you sign a guy like that to a big money contract hoping, as you say, that he has turned the corner. Risky business.

    • Chingri

      I agree that a power NT like Soliai would help our DE’s tremendously.
      I think with Liuget , Reyes and Lissenmore we have a very solid if not spectacular trio that were hampered with very weak NT play.
      Also agree that Wright was playing solid ball by the end of the year, but we still need at least one other CB. A true #1 CB with a power NT could take our Defense to a whole new level. I’d cut Clary, ask Gates to take a pay cut, sign Soliai and Cap Munnerlyn and draft focused on value.
      Would love NT Nix and WR Paul Richardson.

      • MachoMenos

        We also need to cut English to help us with our Cap woes. Probably won’t happen until after the draft, though.

  • http://www.picturethisifyouwill.wordpress.com musicmansf

    Bolts are low on cap this year, but have $52 million to play with the next. Could definitely see some splashes with signing bonuses attached to take out cap problems this year.

    NT would really help out Reyes and Liuget. After Franklin left, they both went downhill.

  • Joe

    I think you’ve got the meaning of “dearth” reversed.

  • JLo

    Joe is correct, he should have said wealth instead of dearth.