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2024 Free Agency Preview: Biggest Positional Needs for the Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

The Chargers are another AFC West team in a major transitional period. While they have their long-term starter at quarterback in Justin Herbert, they have since hired a new general manager and a new head coach. There are also rumors that veteran stalwarts Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack could be traded this offseason. That would create huge holes at the pass rusher position. While some are under the illusion the Chargers have a strong roster, the reality could not be further from the truth.

Previous Divisional Editions breaking down each team's 2023 season, their offseason assets, and their top-three positional needs going into the 2024 NFL Season can be found here:

This organization has been almost entirely carried by Justin Herbert over the past few seasons and he's been provided very little help. It's time to change that. Unfortunately, the Chargers have limited cap space to do much. However, trading Bosa and/or Mack would increase their draft capital. If you want to take advantage of all of our great premium tools, please use promo code, "BOOM" to receive a 10% discount. 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Season Review and Offseason Assets

What a disaster of a season for the Chargers. Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco finally got fired. It was long overdue. Staley compiled just a 24-24 record in three seasons despite having Justin Herbert and just one playoff appearance to show for it. He was hired as a defensive guru, but in three seasons, Los Angeles’ defense never finished better than 21st in points allowed and never better than 20th in yards given up.

Telesco’s drafting resume is atrocious. His entire resume is propped up by having Herbert fall into his lap. During Telesco’s time with the Chargers, they went 84-95 and he had excellent quarterback play the entire time. First with Philip Rivers and then later with Justin Herbert. The team will be better moving forward without him, addition by subtraction essentially.

The Chargers hired Jim Harbaugh from the University of Michigan to be their new head coach. All this guy does is win. He won with the 49ers. He won at Stanford. He won at Michigan. They also hired Joe Hortiz to be their new general manager. He had been the Director of Player Personnel for the Ravens since 2019, but he had served in several other front-office positions with the Ravens since 2009. Given just how much success Baltimore has had, grabbing someone from their front office is a huge win. Harbaugh hired Greg Roman as his offensive coordinator, someone he had worked with in San Francisco, and brought Michigan’s defensive coordinator Jesse Minter with him to Los Angeles.

Last year, the Chargers finished 21st in points scored and 18th in yards gained. However, Herbert missed 4.5 games. Austin Ekeler missed three games and then hit a proverbial wall. Keenan Allen missed four games. Mike Williams missed 14 games. Joshua Palmer missed seven games. First-round pick Quentin Johnston had a bust of a first year, a fairly regular outcome based on Telesco’s drafting history. The defense was even worse. They finished 24th in points allowed and 28th in yards given up.

The Chargers are currently $22 million over the cap. There have been rumors that they could elect to trade Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Trading Mack would save $23.3 million. He just had 17 sacks last season, so he should be someone the Chargers can move. Trading Bosa, because of his guaranteed money, wouldn’t provide as much cap relief. However, he would bring back the biggest draft package. Trading him would save roughly $14.4 million. He has played in just 14 games the past two seasons and will be 29 this summer. Trading him isn’t as crazy as it may seem.

Mike Williams is guaranteed to be gone since cutting him will save $20 million. Just by trading Mack and releasing Williams, they’d go from $22 million in the hole to having over $21 million in cap space. 33-year-old linebacker Eric Kendricks is another potential cap casualty, a move that would save just over $7 million. Keenan Allen has a $34 million cap hit. The team could look to extend him to a new short-term deal to lower that cap hit if they’re interested.

With the team introducing a new general manager and a new head coach, free agents generally have a hard time getting re-signed. New front offices tend to want to fill out the roster in their image. Austin Ekeler, Michael Davis, and Kenneth Murray are the team’s biggest free agents, but expect all three to be allowed to test free agency.

The Chargers own the No. 5 (first-rounder), No. 37 (second-rounder), No.69 (third-rounder), No. 106 (fourth-rounder), No. 139 (fifth-rounder), No. 183 (sixth-rounder), No. 223 (seventh-rounder), and No. 256 (seventh-rounder) overall picks in this year’s NFL Draft.

 

Biggest Needs

1. Cornerback

Full disclosure here, before we get too far into the Chargers’ positional needs… they need everything except a quarterback. Identifying the top three needs of any one team has never been so difficult. This is one of the worst team rosters in the NFL. Most people would say the Patriots, Giants, or Panthers when talking about the worst rosters in the NFL, but never the Chargers. Some go as far as to say the Chargers have a good roster. The Chargers’ roster is repugnant. It belongs in the same class as the Patriots, Giants, and Panthers. Due to that, you could go any number of ways with their biggest three needs. We’ll focus on cornerback as the biggest need.

The Chargers allowed the third-most passing yards, ninth-most passing touchdowns, third-highest yard-per-attempt average, and the fifth-highest quarterback rating. Their passing defense contributed -90 expected points, which ranked 27th. Despite having the ninth-most pass attempts against their defense, they finished just 26th in interceptions and had the seventh-lowest interception rate in the NFL.

Michael Davis is a free agent who logged 885 snaps last season and finished with one interception, 10 pass deflections, and 62 tackles. Their cornerbacks under contract include Asante Samuel Jr. (2021 second-rounder), Ja'Sir Taylor (2022 sixth-rounder), Deane Leonard (2022 seventh-rounder), and Amechi Uzodinma (2023 UDFA). They need to add at least two quality cornerbacks this offseason. This position is in dire need of some major young talent.

2. Offensive Line

Starting center Corey Linsley has retired, which creates a huge hole in the middle of their offensive line. Will Clapp filled in for Linsley once he went on the IR after Week 3. Clapp is a free agent. Left guard Zion Johnson, right tackle Jamaree Salyer, and right tackle Trey Pipkins III are all under contract for 2024, but all of them struggled last season. There were 116 guards and tackles that played at least 600 snaps last season. Pipkins finished 68th with a 62.8 PFF blocking grade. Johnson was 90th at 57.6 and Salyer was 100th at 54.2. Based on sacks allowed, Pipkins allowed the third-most (nine), Salyer allowed the sixth-most (eight), and Johnson allowed the 42nd-most (four).

Based on quarterback hits allowed, Pipkins and Salyer both allowed the ninth-most (eight) and Johnson allowed the 18th-most (seven). Based on hurries allowed, Pipkins allowed the 16th-most (32), Salyer allowed the 43rd-most (25), and Johnson allowed the 58th-most (22). Among total pressures allowed, Pipkins allowed the seventh-most (49), Salyer allowed the 20th-most (41), and Johnson allowed the 42nd-most (33). These three also combined for 21 penalties. Johnson was the best out of the trio and his draft capital (2022 first-rounder) means he’s the most likely to have his spot guaranteed for 2024, but the other two should receive no such assurances. The Chargers could use upgrades at center, right guard, and right tackle.

3. Defensive Line

The Chargers released Sebastian Joseph-Day midway through the season. Austin Johnson and Nick Williams are free agents. These three players combined to play 1,600 snaps. They also combined for four sacks, 109 tackles, and 12 tackles for a loss. Their defensive linemen under contract for 2024 are Morgan Fox (30 years old), Otito Ogbonnia (2022 fifth-rounder), and Scott Matlock (2023 sixth-rounder). This unit needs a major rebuild. With a new defensive coordinator and the lack of talent currently under contract, this position is likely to look completely different in 2024.

Other Positions of Need: Pass Rusher (if Bosa and/or Mack are traded, it would become a top-three need), Wide Receiver, Running Back, Tight End

 

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