LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: CRUCIAL OFFSEASON FOR TELESCO & LYNN
After a twelve win season and a playoff victory in 2018, the Chargers headed into this season with high hopes. Six months later and that optimism is a distant memory. Just five wins in 2019 left them reeling at the bottom of the AFC West, the usual sob story of a roster decimated by injury once again the narrative emanating out of Dignity Health Sports Park. With the franchise relocating to their new shared home in 2020, there is a lot of work to do to get this team playing at a level worthy of such a stadium.
General Manager: Tom Telesco
Head Coach: Anthony Lynn
This work lands firmly at the feet of Telesco and Lynn, who this time last year appeared to be the ticket that would finally get the Chargers to the promised land. I think it’s fair to say that most Bolts fans appreciate the job that Tom Telesco has done in seven years. Whilst this era on the field has for the most part been underwhelming, the GM has built a roster that quite frankly should have yielded better results than it has.
His hand-picked head coach, Anthony Lynn, has experienced both highs and lows in his three years at the helm. 2018 was impressive, and a glimpse of what can be done with this team. It’s probably the primary reason why Lynn not only kept his job this January, but also got a multi-year extension to his deal that was due to expire after 2020. Lynn’s leadership qualities are respected not only in the Chargers organisation but throughout the NFL, and his ability to build an offense around a running game is undeniable. He gets a mulligan for last year, but make no mistake: the extension just means he doesn’t head into the final year of his deal as a lame duck head coach. Another losing season and his job is in serious jeopardy.
Cap Space: $48.7m
Telesco’s cautious but clever management of the salary cap means that the Chargers frequently sit in the middle tier of the league for cap space year after year, despite previously having a franchise quarterback on their books.
This year, things are a lot different. The Chargers have some key players hitting free agency that likely won’t be coming back, and those guys will need to be replaced with the cap space above (as per overthecap.com). With a lack of clear and obvious cut candidates (Mike Pouncey at $6m saved might be the only really big option they have) there’s a lot of holes to fill with that chunk of change. Telesco will need to prioritise carefully and find some under the radar talent to keep this roster competitive.
Impending Free Agents
Nowhere else to start but with Philip Rivers. Their leader for the last sixteen years looks sure to be out, with reports from Jay Glazer at ESPN that The Chargers are parting ways with their quarterback. Rivers has already moved his family across the country to Florida, so anything else but a split would be a surprise at this point. Based on his age, declining play and heavy price tag, it’s sadly but inevitably for the best.
Melvin Gordon’s strong stance in contract negotiations left a sour taste with both camps and it’s likely he won’t be returning to the Chargers either. Paying big money to running backs just isn’t something Telesco is likely to do. Gordon’s middling play on his return to the team isn’t indicative of how good he actually is – despite the performance of Austin Ekeler this team runs through Gordon and Lynn’s rushing attack. He’ll be sorely missed.
The oft injured but highly talented Hunter Henry is also at the end of his rookie contract. His growing importance in this offense may give the Chargers’ front office the desire to bring him back, but they’ll likely be offering less than the market rate. If they want any chance of keeping him in town they’ll probably need to sign him to an extension before free agency begins.
On defense, one interesting name to monitor is safety Adrian Phillips. After a breakout campaign in 2018 he was re-signed to a one year deal but missed most of last season through injury. With a stacked secondary when everyone is healthy it remains to be seen if they try and bring him back once more.
MAJOR NEED: QUARTERBACK
The need for a new quarterback is something the Chargers haven’t had to consider for a decade and a half, and finding the guy for the next fifteen years will be no easy feat. This NFL offseason is going to be witness to a crazy QB merry-go-round and there are several junctures where this team could jump on or off. We know just by looking at the backups Anthony Lynn has brought in that he favours a mobile quarterback – Tyrod Taylor, Geno Smith and Cardale Jones can all run with the football. Does that mean he could target Cam Newton if he and The Panthers part ways? The NFL Draft offers similar athletic QB prospects in Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love. Right now, the Chargers have a ton of options at this position.
MAJOR NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE
Another year, another need for talent at multiple spots across this Chargers offensive line. At this stage it’s fair to assume that Sam Tevi is never going to be a viable long-term starter at right tackle, and if the rookie Trey Pipkins can’t beat him out for the spot is he ever going to be good enough either? With Russell Okung on the back nine of his career the Chargers need to seriously address the tackle spot, someone who can start on the right and migrate over to the blind side when Okung hangs up his cleats.
The long-term health of Mike Pouncey at center and Michael Schofield hitting free agency bring up concerns on the interior line too. There are some big offensive line names out of contract this offseason such as Anthony Castonzo, Andrus Peat and Marshal Yanda. It’s a position that Telesco has used free agency to address in the past and he may opt to do so again, leaving him the draft capital to make a move for a quarterback.
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.