Los Angeles Chargers Should Avoid Re-Signing Cornerback Michael Davis

It's now time for the Los Angeles Chargers to move on from Michael Davis.

Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

If we were talking about then Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Michael Davis this time last year and he was an unrestricted free agent in need of a contract, I would have said a resounding, “ yes.” to re-signing him.

In 2022, basically, all of Davis’ Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades went up and he was ONLY making plays. That year there were pass breakups left and right, he was going head-to-head with top receivers and running backs. Heck, he even sacked Kyler Murray during Week 12 with a play off the edge.

But flash forward, ask me that same question now, I’m saying “No!”

Syndication: The Post-Crescent
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs (87) catches a tpouchdown pass against the defense of Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Michael Davis (43) during their football game Sunday, November 19, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers defeated the Chargers 23-20. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Credit: William Glasheen / USA TODAY NETWORK

What Happened To Michael Davis in 2023?

It’s not like Michael Davis fell flat on his face, it’s just he was reminiscent of pre-2022 Davis, the one with the okay stats that’s good to have, but there are better options.

There were bright spots in 2023. His pass rush grade went up a smidge from the previous year to 77.8 which is the highest it’s been his whole career. He had more STOPs (18), and solo tackles (56), and his run defense grade was higher (64.1) than in 2022. But ultimately, his overall defense grade was lower (56.5), and he missed more tackles (10) despite only playing 49 more snaps.

Daniel Popper of The Athletic first reported in Week 12 that Davis had been replaced by Deane Leonard because of poor performance.

Where Davis excelled in 2022 in covering these high-powered receivers, he seemed to struggle in 2023. Part of that may be because of the failed J.C. Jackson experiment.

Popper said in Week 2 that when Davis did step in for Jackson against the Titans, Davis relayed that “he struggled to find a rhythm amid the rotation.” So part of Davis’ woes can be attributed to coaching, but the other part you can just chock up to Davis being Davis. He’s been solid at times but gets sucked into the defensive issues of the whole team and is just as complicit in the explosive plays killing their games as everyone else. 

Despite the Charger’s lack of funds, which are even less plentiful today considering their additions of running back Gus Edwards and tight end Will Dissly, and re-signing Alohi Gilman there are still some better options out there at cornerback. 

Options For The Los Angeles Chargers In Free Agency

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Commanders
Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers still do have both Leonard and Ja’Sir Taylor as options to replace Michael Davis, though both are really better suited for the special teams front. 

My colleagues at LAFB have recently compiled a list of top cornerbacks, which is shrinking by the hour as more and more come off the table. 

Top 3 Cornerbacks For The Los Angeles Chargers To Target In Free Agency

Kendall Fuller

My blue sky pick for the Los Angeles Chargers is Kendall Fuller. Gordon McGuinness of PFF says “has experience as both an inside and outside cornerback in the NFL but has predominantly been out wide in recent years.” Despite having a knee injury that plagues him, he’s been able to play a lot of snaps over the last few years.

His coverage and tackling grades have remained fairly high throughout the seasons and his ability to play in multiple places can only come in handy within the Chargers new defensive scheme.

PFF does predict him as getting a  “three-year, $13.33 million average per year, $25 million guaranteed” contract, and if the Chargers can manage to get rid of some of their heavier hitters like Keenan Allen or Khalil Mack, perhaps they can afford something in this ballpark. 

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals
Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Moore

Kenny Moore II of the Indianapolis Colts is another option and is coming off one of his best seasons with his highest coverage grade of 79.3.

Kevin Hickey of Colt’s Wire said about Moore, “Though he’s typically viewed as a slot-only cornerback, he has experience working on the outside. Moore’s impact goes beyond the strong coverage he put together in the slot during the 2023 season as well. His instincts and tackling abilities against the run make him an impact player in both phases of the game.”

PFF has him projected to get a “two-year, $6.75 million average per year, $8 million guaranteed contract,” which may be perfect for the Chargers. If they also want to stock up at this position during the draft, it will give any rookies time to get some reps under their belts before stepping into the spotlight.

The Chargers Without Davis

Even if the Los Angeles Chargers don’t get a cornerback in free agency, there’s hope for the draft so I’m not too worried in terms of what the Chargers will look like without Davis. He has had his time and there should be space made for a fresh face in powder blue.