The Chargers will enter the 2021 season with a projected $23.7 million in cap space and nine picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including the 13th overall pick. The focus should be on the offensive line.
With quarterback Justin Herbert as the franchise, playing behind an offensive line that ranked 28th in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking grade is unacceptable.
Here are some trade scenarios that the Chargers could implore to improve this unit.
Trade Option #3
Sewell is 6’6″, 325 pounds, and played at Oregon with Herbert. Sewell started at offensive guard and was moved to left tackle. In the 2019 season, he played 13 games and did not allow a sack. In nine games he did not allow a pressure or hurry. He opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft.
Slater is 6’4″ and 315 pounds, who opted out of his 2020 senior year at Northwestern to prepare for the draft. According to the draft network, Slater not only has positional flexibility but has “tremendous cutoff abilities and clean, patient footwork working space and the necessary functional strength to hold his own on the interior.”
Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles are in desperate need of offensive line help.
While the Chargers ranked 32nd in total offensive line rankings, the Bengals ranked 30th and the Eagles ranked 19th. But don’t be fooled by the Eagles’ 19th ranking. Quarterback Carson Wentz, in 12 games, was the most sacked quarterback. He was sacked 50 times. He had 66 hits and was pressured on 29.7% of his passes.
The Bengals have the fifth pick in the draft and the Eagles have the sixth pick in the draft.
The only solution is for the Chargers to trade up and jump ahead of both. That would require a trade with either the Miami Dolphins who have the third pick or the Atlanta Falcons who have the fourth.
In that unlikely scenario, the Dolphins are the most likely candidate. The Dolphins need a wide receiver and have two picks in the first round (#3 and #18), so trading back to 13 and adding draft capital could actually be beneficial for them.
The Chargers would almost definitely have to give up their first and second-round draft picks. But could they include Mike Williams to sweeten the deal?
Williams will be a constant on the “trade scenario” options. He is playing on a fifth-year rookie option that stands to net him $15.6 million. Although he had a nice season finale, the season overall was not worth $15.6 million. He finished the season with 48 receptions, 756 yards, and five touchdowns.
By contrast, the Dolphins’ leading receiver, DeVante Parker, played in 14 games this season, had 63 receptions for 793 yards and four touchdowns. The Dolphins could acquire Williams, restructure his contract by extension, and have two deep threat wide receivers.
Is that too much capital for a rookie offensive lineman?
Trade Option #2
Trade Williams to the Baltimore Ravens for offensive tackle Orlando Brown. The Ravens need wide receivers. They ranked last in passing last season. Head coach John Harbaugh has stated, “I think a big, physical receiver would be awesome for us—a big target for Lamar…Or a speed guy that could open coverage up would be valuable too. We could use anybody that’s good.”
First, Brown: He has graded 76.7 in pass blocking and a 72.8 in run blocking, per ProFootballFocus.com, Brown allowed 28 total pressures, three sacks and was penalized five times.
The Ravens may require more than just Williams for the tackle.
Second, Williams: At 6’4″ and 218 pounds he does fit the “big-bodied” receiver Harbaugh is seeking, but his $15.6 million salary and the fact that he is also in his fifth-year option is not ideal.
The Ravens are in desperate need of a vertical threat. Marquise Brown played in 16 games, but only had 58 receptions. He did have 769 yards and eight touchdowns, but the inconsistency, he had six drops and a 26.7 contested catch rate, is not ideal.
The trade would solve both teams’ needs.
However, Brown is currently more valuable on the market than Williams, meaning the Chargers would be required to give up a fairly high draft pick.
Trade Option #1
The Chargers are in a position to trade down in the 2021 NFL Draft, acquiring more draft capital, and will still be able to get offensive line help in the draft. There are four or five offensive linemen who are predicted by WalterFootball.com to go late first-round or early second round.
Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC, 6’4″, 315 pounds
Wyatt Davis, Ohio State, 6’4″, 315 pounds
Samuel Cosmi, Texas, 6’6″ 295 pounds
Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech, 6’5″, 314 pounds
Trey Smith, Tennessee, 6’6″, 330 pounds
Evaluating incoming rookie talent is hit or miss at best. With quality offensive linemen available in free agency (that have proven talent) trading back when you can acquire a top half first-round pick is risky.
The Chargers aren’t that far off from the playoffs. Trading back seems like a strategy for a team that needs a lot of pieces to make a playoff run.
Acquire an offensive lineman in free agency, and then swap picks with the Chicago Bears, Washington Football Team, or New England Patriots all who need substantial help and could benefit by raising their first-round picks.
By giving up #13 and acquiring either the 15th,19th, or 20th while picking up some picks in the later rounds, the Chargers acquire more draft capital for more depth.
In reality, the Chargers have only 34 players on their roster that are signed with cap space. That is the fewest of any team in the NFL. Several of them are pivotal re-signs.
While improving their offensive line has to be the priority, retaining free agents Hunter Henry, and keeping some semblance of continuity on the offensive line will be important. This is true because Mike Pouncey, Sam Tevi, Forrest Lamp, Dan Feeney, Cole Toner, Tyree St. Louis, and Ryan Groy are all free agents.
If the Chargers can negotiate free agency and come out with a quality veteran offensive line, trading back to get depth and talent seems the best option.
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