The Los Angeles Chargers aren’t playing around.
After years of frustration, LA is all-in and is attempting to make the Super Bowl sometime before Justin Herbert’s rookie contract runs out. In what has been a wild week in the NFL, the highlight was the Denver Broncos’ massive blockbuster deal to land Russell Wilson after Aaron Rodgers decided to stay with the Green Bay Packers.
But, the Chargers saw that move from Denver and countered massively with the Khalil Mack trade. More than that, they also signed wide receiver Mike Wiliams to a three-year deal worth $60 million. Between those two guys combined, the Chargers invested more than $100 million before free agency, and they just trumped the Wilson blockbuster in a big way.
The Broncos landing Russell Wilson shook up the AFC and pegged the AFC West as the best division in the NFL
Just hours after Pat McAfee dropped the Rodgers news, the Broncos landed Wilson for a massive haul, including four prime draft picks, Drew Lock, Shelby Harris, and Noah Fant.
The Broncos have needed a quarterback for a long time, and for months they had been rumored to be the top destination for Rodgers if he left Wisconsin. Well, he didn’t, but the Plan B of Wilson surely isn’t a bad option.
The Broncos have been discussed as Super Bowl contenders ever since the Wilson trade went down, and the AFC West is now loaded at the QB position with Wilson, Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, and Derek Carr.
That is a ton of talent in one division, and the arms race in the AFC West continued to shift after the Chargers landed star pass rusher Khalil Mack on Thursday, and the “other” LA team started making a ton of noise by shelling out a bunch of cash in a matter of days.
The Chargers’ $100 million investments in Khalil Mack and Mike Williams are massive chess moves
The Chargers are making all sorts of moves over the past year. Last year in free agency, they landed Corey Linsley, one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Then, they drafted Rashawn Slater, who turned out to be a Pro Bowler in his rookie year.
This time around, even before free agency begins, the Chargers spent over $100 million between Williams and Mack combined, and they aren’t playing around anymore.
With Herbert on his rookie contract and one of the most extensive amounts of cap spaces in the NFL in 2022, general manager Tom Telesco flexed his muscles in a last-ditch effort to save his job.
The Chargers aren’t stopping there, either. Reports have surfaced that Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Charvarius Ward are options for LA. They have money to spend even after taking on Mack’s costly deal as part of the trade with the Chicago Bears, and other NFL free agents are beginning to take notice of the Chargers’ aggressiveness.
Is Chandler Jones joining them? Most likely not, mainly because the Chargers now have Mack on one side and Joey Bosa on the other. But they are putting the NFL on notice, and more big moves are on the way.
Telesco and the Chargers aren’t afraid to spend money this time around, and another premier move could send LA into Super Bowl contention (if they aren’t already in that discussion).
The Broncos landing Wilson was huge, but the Chargers landing Mack and retaining Williams trumps it
For the moment, the Broncos have higher Super Bowl odds than the Chargers. However, a lot can change when free agency begins.
Despite the odds shifting in Denver’s favor, the Chargers retaining Williams and landing Mack is a huge deal. Williams had a career year in LA during the 2021 season and is thrilled to build on that season.
But, the acquisition of Mack is a Super Bowl, and CBS Sports analyst Adam Schein agrees with that. The Chargers were just a handful of plays away from a playoff spot with one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Mack helps that cause, and one of Jackson, Gilmore, Ward, or somebody else will also help — not to mention if they add Georgia star Jordan Davis in the NFL Draft.
The Broncos landed a Pro Bowl QB and entered the Super Bowl conversation. Then, the Chargers answered by landing Mack and forming perhaps the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL.
Those numbers speak for themselves, and there is no more double or triple-teaming Bosa. If you do that, Mack is on the other side, and let’s not forget about Derwin James Jr.
To the Broncos’ point, Wilson is a monstrous upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock and should make the Denver offense much better than they have been in the past few seasons.
There is a risk with both these players. Mack is coming off a significant injury, although he still compiled six sacks in seven games in 2021. Before the 2021 season, he played every game except for a pair of contests in 2018, so Mack’s durability is top-notch.
Wilson dealt with a tough finger injury during the 2021 season, but even with that, he still played well.
Both sides have question marks, but both teams got what they wanted: Broncos got a QB and the Chargers another premier pass rusher to pair with Bosa. For now, the Chargers have the upper hand. If they make a splashy move in free agency, their Super Bowl odds should soar through the roof, especially with a superstar QB such as Herbert, not to mention Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler on offense still.
The AFC West continues to look as dangerous as ever, and more big-time moves are expected to go down when free agency kicks off.
Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference