As the Chargers plan to bring in players to help them right the ship after a disappointing season, they can’t overlook their own players they need to re-sign.
General Manager Tom Telesco is starting to feel the heat, and the pressure is building to field a winning team in 2020. The team is stuck somewhere between a rebuild and a reload and that is a tricky line to toe. One of the ways he can begin that process is by starting to bring back their own before they hit the open market. Below are the players that the Chargers could re-sign that should out-produce their contracts.
Many people will wonder whether the Chargers should pay Henry because of his injury history.
He has yet to play an entire season in his four years and missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL. The answer is yes. Anyone who plays fantasy football knows just how few productive tight ends there are in the league. Henry is not Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but he is in the tier right below them.
In just 12 games in 2019, Henry ranked in the top-10 in the NFL in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and receptions at his position. His 55 receptions for 652 yards were also his career-high and he was only scratching the surface. He’s also a willing and able blocker in the running game.
This should be the easiest decision made by the front office as far as players to bring back this offseason. Reports have already come out that the Chargers might transition-tag him before the start of free agency if they can’t get a deal done before free agency. One deal that could make sense for both sides is Zach Ertz’s 5-year $42.5 million deal.
One way or another, the Bolts need to get this deal done because there is no one else.
Phillips was primed for a big role this season due to an injury to star-safety Derwin James, but that didn’t last. Phillips suffered a fractured forearm in Week 2 causing him to land on Injured-Reserve. When he returned, it was as if he never left. He earned the highest Pro Football Focus grade on the team (87.4), even higher than James.
Phillips is another gem, undrafted free-agent, that the Chargers developed into a highly-productive player. He came to prominence when he started playing linebacker due to major injuries at the position. Since then, he has turned himself into an invaluable piece on their defense. He is skilled in coverage and is one of the surest tacklers on the team. Plus, versatility is key in this league.
This time around, the Chargers need to get Phillips inked to a multi-year contract before the rest of the league catches on.
This is not a move I would have endorsed after the 2018 season, but I can admit when I’m wrong. Square was one of the only bright spots of the interior defensive line. While starters Justin Jones and Brandon Mebane missed games, Square showed up and outplayed them. He didn’t have a sack in 2019, but he made some impactful plays in pretty limited snaps.
The one thing that stood out the most was his ability to get into the opposing backfield. He showed an ability to get off blocks with quick hands that we haven’t seen from him in the past. With the Chargers injury history, depth is extremely important and Square has shown he can be a productive rotational lineman. We saw flashes of a player who could far outplay his contract if they re-sign him.
Consistency has been the key for Schofield. He has started the last 32 games for the Chargers at right guard. He’s their only offensive lineman that can say that. On a unit that struggled, Schofield was a steadying presence. He was especially good in pass-protection where he only allowed 1.0 sack in over 1,000 offensive snaps, while also committing only one penalty.
It’s hard to imagine wanting to bring back a piece of such a disastrous position but this is the exception. The Chargers need as many stabilizing forces they can as they try to field a competent line for the first time in a decade. Schofield should come at a reasonable price and hopefully, the money saved here can go towards a right tackle.
This one might come as somewhat of a surprise since the team hardly ever uses a fullback. Fortunately, J.J.’s little brother has become much more than that for the Chargers. When fighting for a spot on an NFL Roster, you better be able to play special teams. That’s what helped Watt contribute, leading the league with 16 special-teams tackles. He also looked like a linebacker while doing it.
As a fullback, Watt is a fine blocker and a decent athlete for the position. This decision will likely come down to Shane Steichen’s new offensive philosophy. Now that he’s the official offensive coordinator, he will be able to fully implement his playbook. Whether or not that involves the use of a full back, is yet to be seen. If they do re-sign him, they need to find a way to incorporate him more offensively.
Final Thoughts And Those Left Behind
The biggest exemption from this list is Philip Rivers. I’m not totally against the thought of bringing Phil back and grooming a young quarterback. I also think it’s possible he could cut out some careless turnovers and keep the team competitive. All of the signs this off-season point to Rivers going elsewhere or retiring, it feels like that chapter is over.
I also didn’t list Melvin Gordon, and I don’t think they should re-sign him. Gordon is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro and has burned bridges with his holdout. With Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson waiting in the wings, I don’t see a deal that makes sense for both parties.
These moves alone are not going to make or break the Chargers season but these guys have produced and deserve to get paid. Telesco has ample cap space to work with this off-season and could plausibly re-sign every one of these players.
This is a critical juncture for the Chargers as they move into their new digs in Inglewood and they need to ace the off-season. With the AFC West rival Chiefs now Super Bowl champs, the team can’t afford to lose productive players. They also have to be smart in how they spend their money and they need to win in the margins or they might fall out of the picture altogether.