The new NFL year is on the horizon. Free agency is set to begin on March 17th, which is usually a whirlwind. This year is going to be different. The cap still isn’t set, but it should be before free agency begins.
The Chargers, as of right now, have around $31.5 million, according to Spotrac. That doesn’t mean that they have that much money to spend in free agency. It means that is the sum of money they have, so with the draft money and savings for the season, the Bolts have around $21-$24 million to spend (depends on the set cap).
There are ways the Chargers can save money before the fireworks get started.
- Re-sign Mike Williams to a long-term deal.
Why they should- The Chargers drafted him seventh overall in 2017. Once considered a potential bust, he is now a solid contributor to the offense. It took Philip Rivers one season to get used to the type of way Williams plays, so even though he went from 1,001 yards in 2019 to 756 with Justin Herbert, expect his production to go up in 2021. Williams is one of the best aerial receivers in the league and is a big part of this offense. In the past, he and Keenan Allen have complemented each other, so the team will probably want to continue building around both of them. The Chargers exercised his fifth-year option, so he is owed $15 million this season, which is pretty high. The team could give him a long-term deal and save anywhere from $5-$8 million.
Why they shouldn’t- Maybe the Chargers aren’t entirely sold on him as a top receiver deserving of the cap hit. Williams only had two games of over 100 yards. He missed two games and has been labeled injury-prone in the past because of his style of play. He also had seven games with less than 50 receiving yards and ten games without a touchdown.
2. Cut Casey Hayward to free up $9.75 million
Why they should- Last season was not a good year for Hayward. At times, he was getting burned by Mike Evans, Denzel Mims, and other receivers. The Chargers need to get younger and faster at the cornerback position. The AFC West has Tyreek Hill, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs III. All three receivers are very fast and, at times, got behind the Chargers secondary. Hayward will be 32-years old when the 2021 season begins, so will the Bolts want an aging cornerback, or will they look for some younger talent. They could use the money they save for another corner or look to sign more offensive line help.
Why they shouldn’t- Hayward looked to be dealing with numerous injuries. He exited a lot of games towards the fourth quarter. In Denver, the Chargers held a 20-point lead that was blown, which was finished off after Hayward went off with an injury. He has been the team’s number one corner since they signed him in 2016. He is a two-time pro bowler and could get back to that level now that he has the whole offseason to get healthy.
3. Cut Trai Turner and save $11.3 million
Why they should- The Chargers traded left tackle Russell Okung for Trai Turner last offseason. It looked like a steal. Well, Turner missed some time in training camp due to injuries. He missed the first game of the season, played in the second, then missed six straight games. It wasn’t pretty when he returned. He looked out of shape and gave up some sacks. He wasn’t the pro bowl player for the Chargers that he was for the Panthers. If the Bolts cut him, they can look at numerous free agents that can take over right guard for half of the price.
Why they shouldn’t- Last season was a weird year due to the pandemic. This could have been a one-off for Turner, and he could return to his pro bowl self in 2021. He didn’t have much practice time during training camp due to an injury and missed six games in a row. It is hard to stay in shape and get back into it full go. Turner is a tough player who will always have his quarterbacks back and built a nice relationship with right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
4. Cut Chris Harris Jr. and save $7.5 million.
Why they should- Harris Jr. missed some time last season with an ankle injury. The Chargers can’t have guys missing time, especially when he missed it against Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Denver. They blew big leads in all three of those games that could have gone the other way had Harris played. The same argument for Hayward can be made for Harris, which is the team needs to get younger and faster at the position.
Why they shouldn’t- Harris showed he still has some juice left. He did miss several games, but he told the media, “I am playing basically on one foot.” He had a game-saving interception in Las Vegas on Thursday night football. The game that showed what he had was the second game against the Denver Broncos. He was flying all over the field, knocking down passes, and even trash-talking the Broncos sideline. Harris also has a lot of wisdom to share with young corners and could be valuable next season when healthy.
5. Cut Linval Joseph and save $7.5 million.
Why they should- Joseph will be 33-years old during the 2021 season and is owed quite a sum of money. They could decide to release him because he doesn’t fit the new defensive scheme of Brandon Staley. At times, the defensive linemen weren’t getting consistent pressure up the middle, and at times the running backs got loose.
Why they shouldn’t- Joseph was the only Telesco “big” free agent signing that played all 16 games and at a high level. Joseph was always involved in chase downs and never gave up on plays. He also brought leadership to the locker room. Joey Bosa and Justin Jones compared it to the leadership Brandon Mebane brought when he was with the team. Joseph could return to the team in 2021 and help the defense take a step forward.