Cleat Geeks

On The Clock: San Diego Chargers 2016 Offseason Preview

In his “On the Clock” series, NFL analyst Brett Casella (@NFL_iQ on Twitter) will take an in-depth look at all 20 teams that failed to make the playoffs as they head into the 2016 offseason. He will conduct a thorough examination of each roster and make recommendations on whom to cut and re-sign, as well as which players to target through free agency and the draft.

This article will focus on the San Diego Chargers.

2015 Record: 4-12
Draft Pick: #3


Season Summary

Melvin-Gordon-Fantasy-2015The San Diego Chargers entered the season with playoff aspirations, but those were quickly crushed as injuries decimated a large portion of their starting lineup. First-round draft pick RB Melvin Gordon never got going this year, rushing for 3.5 YPC, 0 touchdowns, and fumbling the football five times.

On the bright side, WR Keenan Allen showed that he could be one of the league’s most productive players, recording an absurd 67 catches for 725 yards before sustaining a kidney injury that placed him on season-ending IR halfway through the season. Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger, and his window to win a Super Bowl will not be open for much longer.

Re-Signings & Cuts

The highest profile out of all of San Diego’s impending free agents is Eric Weddle. His relationship with the team has deteriorated to the point of no return, and it is a certainty that he won’t be wearing a Chargers uniform next year.

Antonio+Gates+Denver+Broncos+v+San+Diego+Chargers+TeP8fqAIET6lAntonio Gates has made it sound like he is coming back for another season, hopefully less disappointing than this one. San Diego will gladly re-sign him. Their other tight end, Ladarius Green, has all of the athletic ability in the world, but has yet to put it together for San Diego. Expect the Chargers to let him walk.

Offensive lineman Joe Barksdale is the only free agent besides Gates that they should re-sign. They are already thin on the offensive line, and Barksdale was the only member of that unit to not get hurt last year.

Cutting RB Donald Brown and LB Donald Butler will open up over $6 million in cap space.

Free Agency Needs

Going into the 2016 free agency, the Chargers have about $31 million in cap space, and can get that number closer to $40 million by making a few savvy cuts. One of the biggest places they could stand to improve is their offensive line. They could look to sign division rivals Stefan Wisniewski or Donald Penn if they don’t re-sign with Oakland. Other good options include Alex Mack, Kelechi Osemele, Cordy Glenn, and Brandon Brooks.

Their defensive line could stand to be upgraded as well. Muhammad Wilkerson is the biggest name in this year’s class, but may be a little out of the Charger’s price range. Damon Harrison and Vinny Curry would be solid additions for much more reasonable salaries.

I don’t see them doing it, but adding Matt Forte wouldn’t be a bad move for the right price. The Chargers are unlike most 4-12 teams, as they have a high-level, veteran quarterback. They need to win now, even if it means investing in veterans with only a year or two left in the tank.

Other positions and names to keep an eye on include: safeties Eric Berry and Tashaun Gipson; wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Marvin Jones; and linebacker Bruce Irvin.

Potential Draft Picks

With the Chargers picking third, I would keep an eye on OT Laremy Tunsil, DE Joey Bosa, and DB Jalen Ramsey. One of these players will likely be wearing powder blue next season, and will provide an immediate upgrade at a position of need for San Diego.joey_bosa

The early second round is the perfect place to draft a wide receiver to play opposite of Keenan Allen. Josh Doctson, Michael Thomas, Corey Coleman, Tyler Boyd, and even Braxton Miller are all names to keep an eye on here. Getting Philip Rivers more weapons should be high on their priority list. If they don’t go wide receiver here, drafting a linebacker would be the smart thing to do. As the draft progresses into the later rounds, San Diego should focus on adding depth to their offensive and defensive lines.

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