O-line is top priority for Chargers in free agency

Matt Claassen identifies which players the Chargers should re-sign, let walk, and target in free agency.

| 10 months ago
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

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.

Re-sign

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.

Let walk

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.

Target

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.

| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

  • dustin shepler

    I agree but I think I would target Harrison or Ian Williams at nose tackle and wisnewski at center. I would also go after osemele. If they don’t get him I would go for scwhartz. I would also go after Beaty for LT depth. I might also go after Gibson or Walter Thurmond for a safety. Draft Ramsey first (let him play corner and in a few years draft another corner and move him to safety) and hope that nkemdiche falls to us in the second round. If not take the best de on the board in the second. Draft a te, wr and O and d line depth the rest of the way. Depending on how much line depth we get in free agency, might even consider taking a late round qb and maybe a rb to push Gordon.

    • micah

      I actually wouldn’t mind ramirez. He was good for the broncos and from what he says was good when he was on the field for the lions. He would probably come cheap too. I woulddnt mind going after those guys and malik jackson.
      Draft:
      1. Myles jack( trust me, straight up baller)
      2.Andrew billings
      3. Josh doctson
      4. Max tuerk jack allen or spencer drango
      6. Dj white, cornerback from Georgia tech
      6. Deandre houston carson , safety william and mary
      7. Tom hackett punter utah

      • dustin shepler

        We don’t need a linebacker. Jack is really good, I realize that, but that’s not a position of significant need. We have teo, perryman, Ingram and attachou. I would rather keep those four and draft a player of need like Ramsey, bucket or nkemdiche as opposed to drafting jack and having another talented linebacker ride the bench. And we also don’t have a seventh round pick.

        I would go Ramsey at three and then hope nkemdiche falls to the second like he very well could. If not draft the best de available. Unless we trade back to the middle of the first and acquire another second round pick. If that happens I’m going Buckner or nkemdiche in the first, Darian Thompson with the first pick in the second and the best wr with the other second round pick. Obviously it depends on free agency. We could need a center if we don’t sign one. We could need a corner or tight end depending on who we resign. If we take Ramsey I would play him at corner opposite Verrett and sign illoka and either Thurmond or Gibson. I would also sign Marvin jones and add depth on o line.

        • micah

          Dude jack can play linebacker safety, he can play corner, running back, may I go on? I dont really care who we have at linebacker guys like this who are so instinctive and athletic you put on your team and let them work. I agree that I dont want any of our linebackers riding the bench( arguably the most talented group on defense, maybe the entire team) but jack’s skill set is so well rounded that you could work him in the game plan every week. One week hes shutting down guys like travis kelce, the next hes blowing up running backs, or just have him do everything, he can be in on all of our nickel and dime looks that pags runs so much. I just know we can work him into the defense.

          • dustin shepler

            Ramsey is just as instinctive and fits a need more than another linebacker. Ramsey played corner, safety and came down as a linebacker

          • MachoMenos

            The only way the Chargers draft Jack is if 1) they get someone like Iolka AND Malik Jackson in Free Agency and 2) Laremy Tunsil is gone at #3. While I’m not as sold as PFF is on Buckner there simply isn’t another 3-4 DE like him available in the draft. But I think the pick is Ramsey. Too much value not to pick him. Can play the box or single high or the slot receiver. Versatility is the most desirable thing teams look for in a pick and he has that in abundance,

          • micah

            No hes not. They’re pretty much the same except jack is bigger, a more consistent tackler and is faster. Ramsey is more natural in coverage but hes not that far off. You dont seem to get what im saying that he CAN and HAS played safety and corner, and was more effective in an actual linebacker role. I saw a bunch of games where ramsey is getting blitzed off the edge every couple of plays but he was mostly a non factor, as well as when he was lined up inside. Every play with jack he was in on the ball, and you dont see that with ramsey nearly enough to be a third overall pick. Ramsey has the tools no doubt, to be a richard sherman/charles woodson type, but he is not there yet. Lets be honest, do you have faith in the chargers coaching staff to develop talent? No. The only guys that have had success immediatelly on the bolts are the guys who were advanced players in college (verrett… for example).

          • MachoMenos

            Well, I would like to apologize. Miles Jack wasn’t even on my radar because I simply assumed he was another small LB that would be more comfortable in a 4-3 LB role. I was apparently very, very wrong. This kid is head and shoulders the best player in the draft. He has many positive traits but the best one I saw was that he seemed to know where the opposing RB was going to be before the RB knew. To top it all off he is only 20 years old! WTF?!? And the best thing about him-while he might be the best pound for pound player in the draft, he still appears to still have a ton of upside to him. Ridiculously athletic! I only wish I could find more film of him in coverage.

            My only reservations are these. Can a player who has now weighed in at 245 really play safety in the NFL. I did a little research and the heaviest safety I could find that played at an All Pro level was Steve Atwater. He was a beast but he was “only” 228 pounds. Could Jack really play Safety? I doubt it. My other reservation about him really isn’t about him, it’s about Pagano using him the way he should be used. Miles could be the ultimate wild card. With his speed and football intelligence I see him easily covering TE’s and RB’s, even some slot receivers. Although small I really do not believe that he will be a liability against the run. But a great defensive coach could use him for so much more simply because he can do so much more than your average player. However, does Pagano have the guts to use him as that wild card? I would hate for us to draft him and our coaching staff not know what to do with him. Wish Mike Nolan had stayed on our coaching staff. He did a great job with all of our LB’s last year. He was a safety during his playing career so it would have been interesting seeing how they would have developed him. I know nothing about Bob Babich, our new LB’s coach, so I can’t really say anything about him.

            While I still think Ramsey is faster than Jack, like you said, a lot of his traits show great potential/upside. Miles is potential realized with the caveat of a great upside. IMO, I Ramsey is going to be a great Safety in the NFL. However, you are right, Jack, if used right, has the potential to be a generational pick. Thanks for the info.

          • micah

            No problem! Like you said he has a lot of developing to do but he is already showing great football instinct and did pretty much everything for the bruins.

      • dustin shepler

        McLeod is another option to consider at safety

  • Cory Swanson

    You said Marvin Jones would be a good compliment to Keenan and Steve Williams.
    Williams is CB, you meant Stevie Johnson.

  • MachoMenos

    Most importantly we have to let The Donalds go-Butler and Brown before anything.

  • BoltDaddy

    Interesting, Charger.com has all the FA listed in all categories. I agreed completely with your assessment with the exception that I had them keeping Ricardo Matthews and S Addae.