NFL free agency is right around the corner and the market should be extremely active early on. The Los Angeles Chargers have a ton of cap space to spend this time around, and general manager Tom Telesco has all sorts of pressure to knock this out of the park.
The Chargers face a big decision on wide receiver Mike Williams, but all signs point to them using the franchise tag on him after the Clemson product had a career season.
The roster in LA is pretty solid, and having an offense featuring Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, and Austin Ekeler is an excellent group to build on. But, the defense had its share of issues, and the depth was tested, which means the Chargers need to be smart in free agency.
Here are four players the Chargers should target, with team need listed as the criteria. This is also under the assumption that the Chargers tag Williams, meaning the need for a WR isn’t as pressing as it would be.
4. Chicago Bears OT Germain Ifedi
The Chicago Bears might look a lot different next season, but that’s for another day. Offensive tackle Germain Ifedi is worth a flier for the Chargers.
Thanks to Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley and rookie sensation Rashawn Slater, the offensive line was much improved. The Chargers found some gems with Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi in 2021 free agency, and Ifedi might be another low-risk, high-reward signing.
He provides versatility on the line and can play multiple positions. The biggest concern is his injures. But the Chargers should get him for cheap and give the OL even more depth.
3. Chicago Bears DL Akiem Hicks
Veteran defensive lineman Akiem Hicks is an interesting name on the market this time around. The Bears floated him at the trade deadline and ended up keeping him.
The talent is there, and at this point in his career, Hicks would love to make a run at a Super Bowl. The Chargers’ rush defense is a massive issue, and bringing in Hicks is arguably something they should have done at the trade deadline in 2021.
Now, they have a fair shot to bring him on board. He would fill a need, and even though some mock drafts have Georgia standout Jordan Davis slotted there at No. 17, Hicks is still a player to take a flier on. The cost wouldn’t be overwhelming, and there is an obvious connection with head coach Brandon Staley (h/t Daniel Popper of The Athletic).
It is quite easy to connect the dots between Hicks and the Chargers. Head coach Brandon Staley spent two seasons with Hicks when he was the Bears’ outside linebackers coach in 2017 and ’18. Current Chargers outside linebackers coach and run game coordinator Jay Rodgers was Hicks’ position coach with the Bears from 2016 through ’20.Daniel Popper
This move makes sense for both sides, but the Chargers might have bigger aspirations.
2. Safety Tyrann Mathieu
Now we get down to some massive names. The Chargers have too much cap space to be conservative this time around.
Last year, they added Linsley and he made a substantial different upfront protecting Herbert. This time, the focus should be on the defense.
Tyrann Mathieu is set to leave the Kansas City Chiefs after a nice run in Missouri, and the Chargers should come calling right away. During the Pro Bowl, Mathieu even got some LA fans interested with his Tweet toward Derwin James Jr.
The James-Mathieu pairing would be one of the best in the NFL, and the Chargers would pose a massive threat to Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, and whoever is under center for the Denver Broncos.
It would be costly, but the defense in LA needs some help and having James, Mathieu, and Joey Bosa all together would be something.
1. J.C. Jackson
The New England Patriots decided not to use the franchise tag on Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson. Now, the talented CB heads to free agency as one of the most sought-after defensive players available.
The Chargers watched Casey Hayward Jr. leave and signed Michael Davis to a new deal. Then, Asante Samuel Jr. fell to them in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Samuel has a ton of talent, but the Chargers still lack a bonafide CB1. Jackson is that guy, but the price might be more than LA is willing to pay.
He wants money, and he deserves it. Nonetheless, this is the chance for the Chargers to go all-in and make a run at the Super Bowl. Jackson would help immensely, and we can only imagine what Staley can do with a talent such as JC.
Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference