Potential Los Angeles Chargers Trade Targets

Herb celebrates
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert celebrates with Donald Parham and Matt Feiler.

Potential Chargers Trade Targets

Did you feel the paradigm shift that happened this past weekend as the Los Angeles Chargers were on their bye week? I sure did, I think the rest of the league did, and I hope Tom Telesco and Brandon Staley did. 

The Kansas City Chiefs got blown out by the Tennessee Titans this weekend and while one game in the NFL shouldn’t change that much, this kind of thing has been building for them. Patrick Mahomes can’t stop turning the ball over, they can’t run the ball effectively, and their defense is the worst in the league. The Buffalo Bills are currently considered the best team in the conference, and will likely cruise to the number one seed, but the AFC hasn’t been this wide open in a very long time.

Something that teams like the Chargers are hopefully considering with the trade deadline rapidly approaching, especially after addressing their deficiencies in the return and kicking game by signing Andre Roberts and Dustin Hopkins. Let’s dive into some potential targets. 

Akiem Hicks – Chicago Bears

Let’s start with the most obvious one, shall we? The Bears are in a tailspin. They got demolished by the reigning Super Bowl champs on Sunday, and as a result, have a worse point differential than the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s time for them to fire Matt Nagy, embrace the tank, and hopefully get Justin Fields in a better situation in 2022.

Hicks is in the last year of his current deal, and most likely won’t be back in Chicago next year. Trading him now would allow them to get a usable asset for the future, and save them nearly six million dollars. That’s the number any team that trades for him would have to absorb, and it’s one the Chargers could easily fit under their current cap situation, and justify given the need.

Telesco has never done a trade like this, but he’s also never been in this kind of situation either. The Chargers cannot make an extended playoff run with the current state of the defense. They NEED more difference-makers along the defensive line, and despite his age and slightly concerning injury history, Hicks still fits that bill. He missed two games in 2020 due to injury and still finished with 53 total pressures and 31 run stops. That’s more than Jerry Tillery and Justin Jones had combined. The connection to the coach is there, the need is there, the cost is there. Of all the hypothetical moves, this is this one that checks every box.

Austin Johnson – New York Giants

Perhaps one of the more under-the-radar trade targets for NFL teams this year is Johnson. The former Titans second-round pick moved onto New York after not panning out in Tennessee and is currently having a career season. He doesn’t bring a ton of juice to the table as a pass rusher, although he does have 11 total pressures and two sacks so that’s not nothing, where he makes his money is in run defense. 

Through seven weeks, Johnson has 17 run stops – per PFF. That is tied for second among all defensive tackles with Miami’s Christian Wilkins. He’s playing at a really high level as a run defender and not many people are talking about it. 

The Giants are extremely cap-strung for the future and will not be able to afford to bring him back. If they lose again next week, I could see them going into seller mode and Johnson is absolutely someone that should have some interest. He’ll cost less than two million dollars to acquire, and he’s a free agent after the season. They would be wise to trade him and get a pick in return for a player who’s going to be on a different team next year.

Nick Williams – Detroit Lions

Like Hicks, Williams was in Chicago at the same time as coach Staley. He enjoyed a career season after Staley left with Vic Fangio for Denver, however. He was one of the players who was stepping in for Hicks while he was dealing with various injuries in 2019 and performed admirably to the tune of 21 total pressures, six sacks, and 26 run stops. 

He turned those numbers into a two-year, $10 million deal with the Lions. While he has maintained his starting role in Detroit, he hasn’t produced at the same level and the Lions have invested quite a bit of draft capital in the position so a trade would make sense for both sides. 

Williams wouldn’t move the needle like Hicks, or Johnson would but he is a solid veteran presence with experience in Staley’s scheme. Think of him like a Damion Square kind of player that the old regime liked to have around. 

Andre Dillard – Philadelphia Eagles

I wrote in my bye week wishlist article that I believe the Chargers should be shuffling around their offensive line in order to elevate its ceiling and they could certainly do that via the trade market as well. Dillard would be my first choice, given his youth and rookie contract, but it’s widely assumed that the Eagles are seeking a day two draft pick in return and I think that could rule the Chargers out of his market. 

That being said, if they want to find their long-term solution at right tackle via the trade market in 2021 as opposed to the 2022 free agency period or draft, Dillard would be a great option. He’s a former first-round pick that hasn’t really panned out in Philadelphia due to injuries and lack of playing time, but he’s played quite a bit this year and has played well. There have been some growing pains but I believe there’s still a ton of upside with Dillard, and he even has a very similar relative athletic score as Rashawn Slater.

Dillard is still on his rookie deal so acquiring him wouldn’t cost too much on that end. If the Chargers traded for him ahead of the trade deadline, they would have 10 games to decide if they would want to pick up his fifth-year option. If not, he would be a free agent after the 2022 season.

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Marvin Jones – Jacksonville Jaguars

Urban Meyers’ squad should be in sell mode this trade deadline and Jones is one of the few players on their roster that is worth trading for. I wasn’t planning on including any wide receivers in this article, but before the Chargers went on their bye Staley said they wanted to be a more prolific passing attack. Enter Jones, who has been one of the league’s best deep threats over the last few years. He brings legit 4.4 speed to the table and the Chargers need another speedster to go along with Jalen Guyton.

They would take on about three million dollars this year in trading for him, and he is under contract for next season with a cap hit of eight million dollars. However, they could cut him after the season and only have a dead cap hit of five million dollars. 

Andy Isabella – Arizona Cardinals

Every hypothetical trade article needs a dart throw, and that’s Isabella. His name has always been thrown around because he happened to have the misfortune of being drafted before D.K. Metcalf, and he’s rarely played in Arizona being stuck behind Christian Kirk, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, and Larry Fitzgerald

That being said, the Chargers need more speed and Isabella ran a 4.31 at the Combine and should be a legitimate burner. Since he hasn’t panned out in the league (he’s mostly been a healthy scratch this season) he would probably cost a conditional 6th round pick at most. 

Herb celebrates scaled

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert celebrates with Donald Parham and Matt Feiler.