O-line is top priority for Chargers in free agency
Not much went right for the Chargers last season, and the team finished with its worst record in more than a decade. The draft will help, but San Diego also will need to look to free agency if the franchise wants to make a big turnaround in 2016. The Chargers have plenty of cap space, but they also have a significant amount of needs, so spending big on one or two players may be ill-advised.
Below are the players the Chargers should re-sign, let walk, and target during the free agency period.
OT Joe Barksdale
The Chargers had the worst offensive line in the league last season. Even though injuries were a large part of their lack of success, Barksdale was their only offensive lineman that did not grade below average. Barksdale is far from elite, but moving on from a player who has proven to play well enough in the Chargers’ system would only set the O-line back even further.
CB Patrick Robinson
Like Barksdale, Robinson was brought in last offseason on a one-year deal. He had his second-highest overall and coverage grades of his career, while allowing just one touchdown and a passer rating of 74.0 into his coverage. He was a significant upgrade over Shareece Wright, and Brandon Flowers was sub-par in 2015 when he was on the field.
TE Antonio Gates
Gates turns 36 this summer, and is not the elite receiving threat he used to be. However, he was still an effective pass-catcher and was our sixth-ranked receiving tight end in 2015. With Ladarius Green also set to be a free agent, re-signing Gates would keep at least some continuity at the position for another year.
S Eric Weddle
It’s reported that the relationship between Weddle and the team is seemingly strained beyond repair. Even still, the veteran safety is likely to command a significant salary that the Chargers shouldn’t pay at this point. Weddle is still good in coverage, but he is coming off his lowest run defense grade of his career, and just turned 31 last month.
TE Ladarius Green
This is a tough one. For the right price, the Chargers should bring Green back. But a tight end like Green who is young, athletic, and poses a potential matchup problem for defenses will likely be heavily sought after on the free market. Green had his biggest role yet in the offense last season, yet his overall, receiving, and blocking grades were his lowest of the last three seasons, and nothing more than average.
DE Kendall Reyes
The former second-round pick has been a major disappointment for San Diego. The defensive line has been a weakness for the Chargers the last few seasons, and Reyes has been a large part of that. He has graded in the bottom five of all interior defenders each of the last three years, has never finished a season with even an average grade against the run, and hasn’t had a above-average pass rush grade since his rookie year.
DE Ricardo Mathews
Mathews earned his lowest overall grade of his career in 2015, and has had just one positively-graded season in the last five years. It likely wouldn’t take much to re-sign him, but his best season in 2014 seems more like the outlier than anything else.
C/G Manny Ramirez
The priority on the offensive side of the ball is improving the offensive line. Trevor Robinson was the lowest-graded lineman in the league last season. Manny Ramirez would only be a short-term solution, but he played very well when on the field for the Lions in 2015. He’s been solid in both the run game and in pass protection during his career. Ramirez would also provide the added benefit of positional versatility, as he has proven to play well at guard.
DT Akiem Hicks
Once Hicks was settled in with the Patriots, he had the best stretch of play of his career. From Week 8 through the end of the regular season, Hicks had the ninth-highest overall grade among DT/NTs. He has been a solid run-defender throughout his career, which is where the Chargers need the most help. Hicks was also much more effective as a pass rusher last season, and even his worst years have been better than what the Chargers have had the last couple years.
S George Iloka
There might be a lot of interest for Iloka with so many safety-needy teams, but he would be a great option to replace Weddle. Iloka is a well-rounded, complete safety that can move around in a defense. He has earned positive overall grades in all three seasons, with his best two seasons being the most recent.
WR Marvin Jones
The Chargers really need another good wide receiver in addition to Keenan Allen. Unfortunately for them, the free agent class for wide receivers is very underwhelming, and they might be better off turning to the draft. If Alshon Jeffery gets the franchise tag from the Bears, that leaves Marvin Jones as the top wide receiver available. Jones would be a good compliment to Allen and Steve Williams, and if they could sign him to a contract similar to other No. 2 wide receivers, this would be a good target. However, with so few top options, another team may offer No. 1-type money to Jones, and the Chargers should instead look to the draft.