San Diego Chargers' Top Remaining Offseason Priorities
The Chargers have gotten a lot done in the offseason thus far, and year two under general manager Tom Telesco is off to a relatively good start.
In the past couple months, San Diego successfully negotiated a long-term deal with its top free agent (Donald Butler), restructured the contracts of a handful of veterans (Eddie Royal, Jarrett Johnson, Dwight Freeney) and brought in depth through free agency. It's certainly been a productive offseason to say the least, but there's still some work left to be done.
With the draft nearly a month away, the Chargers have a few issues of business to handle regarding free agency, a bloated contract, needs in the draft and the future of the team after next season.
Sign a Veteran Interior Offensive Lineman
Projected Starters: (LG) Chad Rinehart, (C) Nick Hardwick, (RG) Jeromey Clary
Reserves: Johnnie Troutman, Nick McDonald
ESPN NFL Insider Matt Williamson (h/t Eric D. Williams of ESPN) had this to say when asked to evaluate the state of the Chargers' offensive line:
I don't see any Pro Bowlers. Fluker's the best of the bunch. He's a good run blocker, and played well at right tackle for a rookie. If you move him to guard he would be a Pro Bowler. You can run behind him.
Dunlap is good. I thought he would be a stop gap guy. His play was surprising. Starting left tackles in the NFL don't grow on trees, and he's a starting left tackle. Rinehart is solid at left guard. Hardwick and Clary are concerns. I don't see any young guys riffling up depth chart.
From this, it's clear there's need for help along the interior of the O-line. The team will probably address that need in the draft, but a veteran addition should be in the conversation as well.
Rich Ohrnberger, who played in 13 games as a backup and had one start for San Diego, is still a free agent, but the East Meadow, N.Y. native is being courted by the Jets, as reported by Dom Cosentino of NJ.com. There are also a number of veterans in free agency to consider.
Handle Clary's Contract
You're probably wondering why Jeromey Clary is still a Charger, and you're not the only one. ESPN's Eric D. Williams examined the ins and outs of why the 30-year-old guard might still have a spot on the roster heading into 2014 while carrying a $6.25 million cap hit—one of the largest on the team.
The most sound reason Williams provides is the fact that Clary keeps the O-line consistent from last season. As one of the more experienced players in the group, he has a better understanding of the system run in San Diego and played a big part in helping D.J. Fluker along in his development as a rookie.
Still, you'd like to see the front office do something about that bloated contract. That's a lot of money for a player that is far from the best at his position.
Draft Another Receiver to Complement Keenan Allen
Matt Williamson touched on San Diego's depth at receiver in a recent blog post by Eric D. Williams, and he pointed out that the team should be looking to add a combination of size and speed through the draft. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is an ideal fit according to Williamson, as well as Indiana's Cody Latimer and Mississippi's Donte Moncrief.
When asked about Chargers star wideout Keenan Allen, Williamson had this to say:
As much as I like Allen, to ask him to improve dramatically in one season may be asking too much.
He's a really good receiver, but he does not have the athletic ability of an A.J. Green or a Julio Jones. He could be close to his ceiling already.
He uses his body really well. He's an advanced route runner, has good hands and is physical. But he's not fast. Teams will have another year to study him, and they're not afraid of the deep ball against him.
What the team will need to look for in a receiver is someone who can stretch the field in the passing game. A player like that could probably be found on Day 1 or 2.
Find the Missing Link in the Secondary
San Diego hardly addressed the secondary in free agency, which should mean the team plans on finding answers in the draft. The amount of first-round talent at corner is limited, but there are players down the board who can grow with time.
If the Chargers plan on making consecutive playoff runs, they'll need to go all in on a player who can make an impact in the secondary from the get-go. Prospects in mind include Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State, Bradley Roby from Ohio State, Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech and TCU's Jason Verrett.
If all five manage to escape San Diego, then Plan B better involve beefing up the pass rush.
Start Preparing for the 2015 Free-Agent Class
Though it seems like a long time away, the list of players scheduled to be free agents in 2015 for San Diego is loaded with questions. That being said, will the Chargers' strategy during the draft focus on players they may not be able to keep after this season?
Here are just a few of the names that jump out: Eddie Royal, Dwight Freeney, Ryan Mathews, Corey Liuget, King Dunlap, Danny Woodhead, Vincent Brown, Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright.
Something to also consider is which of these players deserve a contract extension, and when should the team get to work on that? During this season perhaps?