Should The Chargers Make Keenan Allen The Highest-Paid Wide Receiver In The NFL?

Los Angeles Chargers Wide ReceiverKeenan Allen All AFC West Team
Los Angeles Chargers Wide Receiver Keenan Allen. Photo Credit: Monica Dyrud - Sports Al Dente

The Los Angeles Chargers recently extended star pass rusher Joey Bosa, making him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. The Chargers are wasting no time trying to extend star receiver Keenan Allen as well.

Many reports state that the Chargers have shifted their focus towards extending Allen before the season starts. While Allen hasn’t commented on the contract situation, some speculate that the star receiver wants to be made the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. Many fans may have an immediate negative gut reaction but logically, it may be in the Chargers’ best interests to bow down to Allen’s potential demands.

There are a few factors that must be considered when determining whether or not Allen should be made the highest-paid receiver in the NFL: the talent already present on the team, the talent available via free agency and the draft, the team’s cap situation, and the player’s production.

Should The Chargers Make Keenan Allen The Highest-Paid Wide Receiver In The NFL?

The Receiver Talent On The Team

In regards to the wide receiver talent on the Chargers roster, the team is quite top-heavy. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams form a formidable duo but after that, the Chargers’ depth is shaky.

Wide receivers Joe Reed and K.J. Hill were drafted in the fifth and seventh rounds of this year’s draft. While there is reason to be optimistic about the rookies, it’s unlikely that they’ll make a sizable impact this year, let alone match the production of Keenan Allen.

The Chargers’ depth is not limited to the top two players and rookies drafted this year. Players like Darius Jennings and Jalen Guyton will be fighting not only for the third receiver spot but also to make the roster. Again, it’s unlikely they will be able to match Keenan Allen’s production. Taking this into consideration, it would be wise for the Chargers to attempt to keep their best wide receiver on the roster.

2021 Free Agency And Draft Wide Receivers

The 2021 free agency pool looks to be a strong year for wide receivers. Keenan Allen potentially won’t be the only receiver looking to for a massive payday. He’ll be joined by Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Cooper Kupp, Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and T.Y. Hilton.

While this seems like one of the strongest free agent classes for wide receivers, Keenan Allen believes he’s the best out of the group and he’ll probably be looking to top whatever Godwin gets paid. If the Chargers are, for some reason, unable to come to a deal with Keenan Allen, there are a few talented younger and cheaper options the Chargers could consider.

Now let’s take a look at the wide receiver options via the draft. While the 2021 wide receiver class might not be as strong as last year’s historically strong class, it’s still quite strong. If the Chargers decide to replace Keenan Allen via the draft, there are several pros and cons to consider.

On a positive note, whoever they draft will be younger than Allen and on a cheaper contract. The cons are that the Chargers would be using a valuable draft pick to replace a star player rather than using the draft pick to solidify a bigger need such as somewhere on the offensive line or at the second outside corner position. With a lot of Chargers hitting the market in 2021, the team will likely have to re-solidify positions weakened by losses in free agency.

Another negative is that it is completely unknown how that draftee will fare in the NFL, let alone if they’ll be able to replace Allen’s production in year 1. Most fans would like to forget Mike William’s first year in the NFL and it likely would not be difficult. As a rookie, Williams couldn’t even muster 100 yards the whole season (granted he only played 10 games). That’s to be expected of most rookie wide receivers, even if they were drafted in the first round. Corey Davis and John Ross (both drafted in the first round in 2017 with Mike Williams) didn’t fare much better. It would be unwise for the Chargers to rely on the draft to replace Keenan Allen’s production.

The Chargers 2021 Cap Space Situation

Financially, the Chargers are projected to be solid in the cap space department. The Chargers are projected to have the 7th most cap space in the NFL. While this seems great, problems arise when you realize that Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Melvin Ingram, Desmond King, and Mike Pouncey are all going to be free agents.

Tom Telesco likely won’t be able to re-sign all of the players listed and a record-breaking contract for Keenan Allen wouldn’t make that any easier. Allen is the best player on this list and he undoubtedly makes the biggest impact, but the Chargers have to decide if it is justifiable to pay up for one player despite likely losing two or more starters.

Player Production

Keenan Allen believes that he is one of the best, if not the best, wide receiver in the NFL and he has the stats to at least place him in the conversation. Firstly, for all the hate Allen gets about his injury history, in the past three seasons, Allen has played 50 out of a possible 50 games (playoffs included). Mike Evans? 44 out of 48. Chris Godwin? 21 out of 48. Tyreek Hill? 47 out of 54. Now that the ranting is over, let’s get into the stats.

Over the last three seasons, Allen has caught 303 passes for 3,788 yards and 18 touchdowns. In those three seasons, Allen has caught at least 97 passes for at least 1,196 yards. Each year, he has caught 6 touchdowns. Allen has been as consistent as they come in the last three years. Over the past two years, only three receivers are graded higher than Allen with an elite 91.2 receiving grade. Only Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, and Julio Jones were graded higher. Allen is in elite company and should be paid as so.

Bottom Line

Keenan Allen may not require the Chargers to make him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL but they shouldn’t be surprised if he does. The Chargers are set up well to accept his request and giving him a lucrative contract would be justified considering the impact he has on the team. While the Chargers could lose key starters in free agency and there are some talented options via the draft and free agency, Allen is elite. Few can replace his impact on the Chargers’ offense. Keenan Allen deserves to be the highest-paid receiver in the NFL and the Chargers should be willing to make it happen.

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