Now that the 2014 season is over, the Chargers are now moving full steam ahead into free agency preparation and draft evaluation. Truth be told, this process started months ago and now is the time to focus on those two fronts and make some noise.
There are multiple holes on each side of the ball that will need to be filled if the team hopes to make a run at the postseason next year. With the free agency period coming before the draft, the Bolts must find some solid veterans to come in and help get this team over the hump and into the playoffs.
There are some marquee players available in free agency this year. Most of them will not be on this list. I am trying to be realistic when it comes to the true possibility of guys being signed to the team. As much as I’d give my left arm to have a DeMarco Murray, Randall Cobb, Dez Bryant or Jason Pierre-Paul, among others, it is likely that they will either be re-signed by their respective teams or their price tags will be too high for Tom Telesco.
Below I’ll list 10 players that make sense as additions to the Chargers. They are not listed in any particular order of importance, so to speak.
RT – Bryan Bulaga ( Green Bay Packers )
With the likely move of DJ Fluker to right guard, there will be a big hole next to him at right tackle. Although I said there was no particular order to this list, he would be my primary target in free agency. Bulaga will be expensive, but if there was one player that I would spend on, it would be him.
RB – Mark Ingram ( New Orleans Saints )
It appears as though Ryan Mathews’ time has run out in San Diego. As much as I respect his physical running style, it seems that the team’s patience has run out with his inability to stay on the field. Ingram had a good year in 2014. He missed 1,000 yards rushing by only 36 yards and he managed to score 9 touchdowns on the ground. Like Mathews, minus the speed, he is a physical runner that can grind out the hard yards. A backfield consisting of Ingram, Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown would be more than sufficient in getting the ground game going.
DT – Dan Williams ( Arizona Cardinals )
The lack of a true nose tackle has hurt the Chargers for a while. The play of Corey Liuget has been affected and so has the play of the middle backers due to not having that large, commanding presence in the center of the defense. Despite being a former first-round pick, Williams could be signed at a reasonable price. He could immediately come in and contribute as a starter in the base defense. Williams is definitely worth a look.
OLB – Brian Orakpo ( Washington Redskins )
Orakpo is coming off of a year where he missed all but seven games. This is the second time in three years where he missed significant time due to injuries.
Now, I am not trying to scare you off by stating this. It actually works in favor of the teams that are thinking about signing him. He should be affordable due to his injury history.
Orakpo, minus the two aforementioned seasons above, has proven to be a good pass rusher with 40 career sacks. He has played six seasons, but it is fair to take away two years and see that he averages almost ten sacks a year when healthy. The Charger pass rush has been non-existent in recent years. It is obvious that a boost is needed at the outside linebacker spot. The former Texas Longhorn could provide just that.
G/T – Orlando Franklin ( Denver Broncos )
Since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, Franklin has started all but one game. He started his career as a tackle, but has since been moved to guard. At 6’7″ and 320 pounds, he is a huge man with decent feet. He is very strong and manages to take advantage of his strength by steering defensive linemen in the direction in which he needs them to go.
As mentioned above, the Chargers love versatile players. The fact that Franklin can play both guard and tackle is a plus. If the team misses out on Bulaga, Orlando would be a solid second-option as a free agent.
CB – Chris Culliver ( San Francisco 49ers )
In his third year in the league Culliver started 14 games. In his time on the field he collected 4 interceptions, 45 total tackles, one fumble forced and one fumble recovered. The San Diego cornerback position is a big question mark going into 2013. Brandon Flowers, Shareece Wright and Marcus Gilchrist are all free agents. Though “Gilly” switched to strong safety in ’14, he also saw time at the nickel corner position. Re-signing Flowers should be near the top of the list of priorities for Telesco. But there will be some decisions to make regarding the other players.
Culliver is an upgrade over Wright and Gilchrist. He has good size and his playmaking ability would make him a solid addition. Because his career is on the upswing, he may desire a larger salary than the Bolts feel comfortable paying.
OT – Byron Bell ( Carolina Panthers )
Bell is another player that has barely missed any time since being drafted; only two games. He has experience at the left and right tackle spots, most recently as the blindside protector in Carolina. He is going to wow anyone in any given category but he is solid across the board. The need to keep Philip Rivers upright is crucial to the success of this team moving forward.
Bell’s contract could be a little tricky with his recent transition to left tackle. The word out of Charlotte is that the Panthers would like to re-sign him but they don’t want to overpay. The Chargers are probably in that same boat.
That being said, if some of the other Oline options fall through, Bell could be there if he hangs around without being picked up.
DE – Alex Carrington ( St. Louis Rams )
This would be an under the radar signing and I can’t imagine it costing hardly anything to gain his services. Carrington has been in the NFL for five years. He has yet to make his mark on defense but he has blocked 6 kicks – four field goals and two extra points – on special teams.
Coming from small Arkansas State in college, his jump to the league was tough. He does not bring much as far as getting after the quarterback but he is good against the run. Carrington would be a backup along the defensive line and would not be asked to do too much. He could be a nice add to special teams and a contributor off of the bench on defense.
RB – Justin Forsett ( Baltimore Ravens )
In what was one of the better stories in the NFL this year, Forsett had a great year in 2014. Known as a journeyman prior to last season, he came in and averaged a league-high 5.4 yards per carry and scored 8 touchdowns on the ground. He eclipsed 1,200 yards while playing for his fifth team in his seven-year career.
The downside to Forsett is that he will turn 30-years-old during the 2015 season. This could make teams leery of signing him to a lucrative deal. Depending on what direction San Diego wants to go in regarding their current backfield, he could be a nice complement to the existing running back corps. He also poses a threat as a receiver out of the backfield hauling in over 40 passes in 2014.
CB – Perrish Cox ( San Francisco 49ers )
Clearly having his best year as a pro, Cox finished last season with 5 interceptions and two fumbles recovered. The 49ers are in trouble as they cap number currently sits in the negative. They have multiple big name players to work out deals with and they won’t have enough money to keep them all. Cox could end up being one of the odd men out. He has good coverage skills and he has improved with the increase in playing time that he has seen.
Like his teammate in San Francisco, Culliver, Cox would also be an upgrade for the Charger secondary.
These are ten names that I will be keeping an eye on during this offseason. In your opinion, whom did I leave out? Is there a player here that you are not too keen on? Let me know by leaving your thoughts and comments below.
Thanks a lot for reading.
Here in sunny Phoenix, you can’t have consecutive conversations on any subject without the Super Bowl being mentioned. For good reason, Phoenix is the center of the universe this week and the game pitting the New England Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks has all the makings of an epic encounter.
Then again, we thought the same thing about last season’s Super Bowl…
On the first snap of last season’s big game, the ball was sailed over Peyton Manning’s head and it was all downhill from there as the almighty Denver Broncos were boat raced by the Seahawks 43-8.
Are we doomed for a repeat of last season?
Let’s check the similarities. The Seahawks are the power of the NFC, featuring (arguably) the best secondary in the game and a stout defense that keeps opponents off the scoreboard while the offense gets ahead early and forces the opposition to play out of their comfort zone. The Patriots were the top team in the AFC or, perhaps, considered 1 and 1A most of the season when you include Denver in the mix. Both teams finished with identical 12-4 records and first round byes in the playoffs. In the end, the Patriots had the edge due to a 43-21 win over the Broncos. The fact that the Patriots are the AFC representative in the Super Bowl erases all remaining doubt.
The Patriots also feature a deep and talented secondary and the best game planning staff in the league in Bill Belichick and crew. The Patriots offense, like Seattle, is not explosive by definition but they have bursts of scoring that is usually enough to put teams away.
Both teams come armed with a play making quarterback and one star complimentary player. Seattle has Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch. New England has Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Aside from those tag teams, neither offense has a player that strikes fear into the opposition. The question is which tandem will be held in check the best. Both teams have slow, plodding offenses with short rhythmic passing attacks. Neither team has a propensity to fire the ball deep down the field.
The differences are Seattle has a more creative offensive attack with Wilson running the read-option. His ability to extend plays with his legs will create problems for the Patriots. New England has faced one running quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and no read option teams all season. The Patriots, boring style and all, do average 30 points per game to Seattle’s 24. All their offensive shortcomings are overshadowed by the ability of Brady to make the plays needed to win. Brady is in the argument of best quarterbacks of all time. New England is playing to cement their legacy while Seattle is hoping to create a legacy reminiscent of what the Patriots are doing now. Back to back Super Bowl wins over two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game will go a long way to doing so.
In the end, it boils down to can Seattle disrupt Tom Brady enough to make him average. He’s great when he has time to throw and has established a rhythm. When the pass rush forces him to slip and slide in the pocket he becomes average and prone to making mistakes. Seattle’s defense found its stride at the right time coming down the back stretch of the season as they reeled off six straight wins, allowing six points per game to the opposition. Only one team in that stretch scored more than 7 points.
For New England, the big question is can they stop Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is the most punishing runner in the league and over the course of a game defenders are less and less willing to tackle him head on. The Patriots have given up big rushing games to lesser backs this season. Moreno (132), Knile Davis (107), Chris Ivory (107), Matt Forte (114), Eddie Lacy (98) and Justin Forsett (129) in the Divisional Playoff against Baltimore. Stopping Lynch makes the read-option and play action ineffective which is the Seahawks bread and butter.
Thankfully, this game looks dead even which means we won’t be looking for something more interesting to do before halftime as was the case last year. The Seahawks will shackle Gronkowski for most of the game. He’ll find an opening for one short touchdown catch. Seattle strong safety Kam Chancellor will be the unsung hero of the game. The heartbeat of Seattle’s defense, force multiple incompletions on balls headed to Gronk and without his safety net Brady will falter.
The stingy Seahawks D will force field goals instead of allowing touchdowns in the red zone. Brady will throw for a pedestrian 250 yards and two touchdowns but the pass most talked about will be of the second half pick six he threw to Earl Thomas that broke the game open. One half of the Wilson/Lynch tag team will win the MVP and the ‘Hawks will succeed in going back-to-back by a score of 30-23.
Who you got, Bolt Nation?
The Greg One