The 2021 free agency period will be an interesting time. Because of Covid, the free agency cap is predicted to be quite lower than in previous years. And although the Chargers have a predicted $23.7 million to spend, they also have the fewest rostered players to work with. That is, the Chargers have a ton of free agents.
Before we get to who to keep and who to let go, let’s review the different types of free agents.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT (UFA)
Any player with four or more accrued seasons and an expired contract; free to negotiate and sign with any team.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT (RFA)
A player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of several qualifying offers that come with the Right of First Refusal and/or draft-pick compensation.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENT (ERFA)
Any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract and the league minimum, the player cannot negotiate with other teams.
The Chargers will have a total of 28 men on the free-agent market. The breakdown is as follows.
11 offensive free agents: 4 tight ends, 1 quarterback, 5 offensive linemen, 1 running back
13 defensive free agents: 3 defensive linemen, 4 linebackers/edge, 6 secondary
4 special teams: including 1 punter and 1 kicker
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
Six of these are ERFA, meaning the Chargers can have them back for the league minimum. Let’s go with that. These players are:
Matt Sokol, TE, 26
Tyree St. Louis, T, 24
Tevaughn Campbell, CB, 28
Cole Christiansen, LB, 24
Joe Gaziano, DE, 25
Ty Long, Punter, 28
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Isaac Rochell, DT, 26
Malik Jefferson, OLB,25
Brandon Facyson, CB, 27
Cole Toner, G, 27
Stephen Anderson, TE, 28
Kicker Michael Badgley is on the younger end of kickers in free agency (although does it really matter with kickers). For the season he was 24-of-33 in field goals; 36-of-39 in extra points and money from 39 yards-in hitting 14-of-14.
He also was 8-of-13 from 40 to 49 yards; and 2-of-6 from 50+, his longest being 53 yards.
As a restricted free agent let him walk and see what the market is offering. However with Younghoe Koo a free agent along with Matt Prater, Cairo Santos, and Zane Gonzalez among others; Badgley is not listed in the top 11 free agent kickers.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Here is where it gets interesting. These are players you are either keeping or letting walk.
OFFENSIVE UFA – LET WALK
Virgil Green, TE: Green is 33 years young. He played in six games last season and was targeted six times for three receptions.
Dan Feeney, G/C: Played on 729 pass-block snaps and 445 run block snaps. Allowed four sacks, five quarterback hits, and 33 total pressures. Was penalized twice, and his overall PFF.com grade was 48.2, ranking 35th out of 36.
Mike Pouncey, C: Coming off a season in which he required season-ending hip surgery. In 2019 he completed five games before his season was ended due to a neck injury that required surgery.
He played on 175 pass-blocking snaps and 95 run-blocking snaps. He allowed three quarterback hits and 11 quarterback pressures and was penalized once. He received a 57.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
Sam Tevi, T: If there is a fence sitter on the offensive line it is Tevi. Tevi’s contract last season was for $640,448. He was ranked 73rd out of 79th in his position. He had four penalties and allowed two sacks, nine hits, and 33 total quarterback pressures. That was on 630 pass-block snaps and 394 run block snaps.
Tevi stays if the Chargers decide to cut Trai Turner. Turner was graded 34.8 overall, on 51.3 pass-blocking and 29.8 run-blocking. If Turner somehow stays, then Tevi is out.
Kalen Ballage, RB: Ballage is the fourth in an already crowded running back room. With Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, and Joshua Kelley. It is unlikely that Ballage, who averaged 3.3 yards per carry and had only a 1.1 breakaway percentage, remains on the Chargers roster.
OFFENSIVE UFA – TO KEEP
Tyrod Taylor, QB: The role reversal is complete. Taylor did not have a chance to improve his free-agent standing in the one game he did play. The Chargers will bring him back as a back-up to Justin Herbert.
Hunter Henry, TE: Is there any question that the Chargers have this man as a priority? Henry was on the field for 87.3 percent of the offensive snaps. He ran routes on 81.7% of offensive plays and accounted for 92 targets, all of which put him in the top 10 for tight ends.
A second year with Herbert can only get better.
Forrest Lamp, G: Lamp’s season was buoyed by his 61.3 pass-blocking grade. Even so, he was credited with 38 pressures allowed, 14 quarterback hits allowed, two sacks, and one penalty on 729 pass-blocking snaps and 445 run-blocking snaps. As mediocre as that is Lamp was the best graded of the Chargers offensive linemen.
DEFENSIVE UFA – LET WALK
Damion Square, DT: In the 2020 season, Square acquired eight solo tackles, 11 assisted tackles, and one sack, in 16 games. He has been with the Chargers for the last six seasons. However, his most productive season was in 2018, when he had 3 sacks, seven quarterback hits, and 31 tackles. Four years is a long time to wait on productivity.
Square’s salary last season was $1,750,000.
Denzel Perryman, ILB: Perryman became a necessity after Kyzir White was placed on the reserve/Covid list in Week 13. But with Perryman’s injury history and Kenneth Murray in the fold, Perryman becomes a casualty of his one inconsistency and the salary cap.
Perryman’s 2020 salary was $6 million.
Melvin Ingram, OLB: Ingram made $16 million last season. He played seven games and finished with 10 combined tackles and zero sacks. He will undoubtedly command a higher price than his current salary on the open market, with teams looking beyond the 2020 season. Fair enough. The Chargers should not be one of them. His production and inability to remain healthy and stay on the field (the last time he played a full 16 games was 2018) make his price tag too high for a team that has deeper needs.
Jahleel Addae, SS: Addae has seen this movie before. Cut by the Chargers, he was brought back this year when injuries decimated the secondary. In his 11 games, he finished with 21 total tackles, a half-sack, two passes defended, and one interception. He was also ruled out of the season finale with a calf injury.
DEFENSIVE UFA – TO KEEP
Nick Vigil, OLB: The argument for keeping Vigil, who was signed to a one-year $2,400,000 contract, is depth at the linebacker position, especially since in this scenario Perryman is out.
The Chargers aggressive injuries over the last two seasons allow some validity to the argument. However, production should be the bottom line. And unfortunately, Vigil has not lived up to a two-million-dollar contract. In this scenario Vigil stays but with the hope of renegotiation.
Rayshawn Jenkins, S: Jenkins finished the 2020 season with career highs with 84 total tackles, one sack, four passes defended, and two interceptions. After starting the first 15 games of the season, he did not play in the season finale due to an ankle injury. However, his play in the first 15 games has made keeping him a priority. While the buzz is the Las Vegas Raiders will be going after him, that should not out-price him for the Chargers.
Jenkins was ranked 29th out of 94 in his position by Pro Football Focus.
Jenkins’ salary last season was $765,552.
Michael Davis, CB: Pro Football Focus has Davis ranked 54th out of 121 cornerbacks. He finished the 2020 season with 64 total tackles and three interceptions, both career highs. While being on the field for 958 defensive snaps, Davis only allowed a 77.7 passer rating and missed only six tackles.
The only worry is Davis’ $3,259,000 salary from last season, which might command a generous increase this season.
But making some aggressive cuts of under-performing players would help keep those who produced.
The Chargers enter the 2021 season with new coaches and potentially 20 plus new faces on the field. Defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill has a track record of developing players in the secondary. In addition, he will need to find that complimentary piece to Joey Bosa.
In addition, head coach Brandon Staley and Joe Lombardi must find the people to keep Herbert safe, by patching up an offensive line that has been porous for a few seasons now.
The salary cap will be lower due to Covid no doubt. The Chargers must find a way to find healthy able bodies that translate to “W’s” on the field and off.
Come talk to me on Twitter @gladysLtyler