The Los Angeles Chargers, especially their general manager Tom Telesco, had developed a reputation in previous years for being exceedingly quiet during free agency, even earning himself a nickname: Coupon Tom. Well, Telesco seemed determined to splurge in the 2022 NFL Free Agency, making several high-profile signings and a high-profile trade. This is the Chargers’ free agency in review.
Trading for Khalil Mack
The Los Angeles Chargers and Chicago Bears agreed to a deal on March 10th that would send star defensive end Khalil Mack to L.A. In return, the Bears received a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick.
This move made a lot of sense for both sides. The Chargers’ defensive line was feeling the effects of Melvin Ingram’s departure in 2021 for Pittsburgh. Chargers’ star defensive end Joey Bosa took on more responsibility in forcing quarterback pressures without his former teammate. Now, though, Bosa won’t need to face off against many double-teams, or even triple-teams, since opponents will not be able to ignore Mack’s presence. And to acquire such a talented and experienced player, the Chargers did not give up that much. Sure, Mack is getting older, and he has an expensive contract, but his sheer talent can’t be overlooked. So, giving up a second this year and a sixth next year is a very good deal for the Chargers.
Signing J.C. Jackson
Only four days later, on March 14th, the Los Angeles Chargers signed former New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson. Signed to a 5-year, $82.5 million deal, the second-team All-Pro cornerback will be here to stay in L.A. Jackson is a bona-fide gifted talent at cornerback, particularly in man coverage. In 2021, Jackson nabbed 8 interceptions, as well as 23 passes defended (best in NFL) with the Patriots.
With the addition of Jackson, the Chargers’ secondary looks quite scary: Jackson and 2021 second-round pick Asante Samuel Jr. at each corner, with Derwin James at strong safety and Nasir Adderley at free safety. Along with a few other moves to be mentioned later, this Chargers defense looks to be a much different beast from last season.
Other Important Signings
Telesco and the Chargers were not done after signing Jackson and trading for Mack. With the signings of defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day from the Los Angeles Rams and Austin Johnson from the New York Giants, the Chargers’ defensive front looks terrifying for opposing offenses. Joseph-Day and Johnson are a massive improvement over Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, and Linval Joseph, who were terrible against the run in 2021. Expect the Chargers defense to be able to handle run-first offenses much more effectively in 2022.
In other news, the Chargers also signed tight end Gerald Everett to a 2-year, $12 million deal.. Everett was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, and played with the Seattle Seahawks in 2021. The 27-year-old provides a solid transition from the aging Jared Cook, who is 34. Everett brings bullish yards-after-catch ability through his 6’3, 240-pound frame, which makes him a reliable target for Justin Herbert for the next two years.
- LB Uchenna Nwosu signed with the Seattle Seahawks on a 2-year, $19 million deal.
- DT Justin Jones signed with the Chicago Bears on a 2-year, $12 million deal.
- OLB Kyler Fackrell signed with the Las Vegas Raiders on a 1-year, $1.2 million deal.
Other Key Players Hitting Free Agency
- LB Kyzir White
- T/G Oday Aboushi
- G Storm Norton
- CB Chris Harris Jr.
- RB Justin Jackson
Where Do the Chargers Go From Here?
With the defensive line and secondary issues addressed, the Chargers now face two less concerns to building a complete team. That said, the work to fully round out the team is far from over. With the departures of Uchenna Nwosu and Kyler Fackrell, as well as the expected departure of Kyzir White, a major need has sprung up for the Chargers defense: linebacker. Sure, the Chargers did need to address this position prior to the offseason, but now? It’s arguably their most pressing concern.
Aside from the linebacker issue, the Chargers also need to round out their offensive line. Their offensive line is about halfway set, with two Pro Bowl-caliber players at both left tackle (rookie Rashawn Slater) and center (Corey Linsley). Not to mention, Matt Feiler showed significant improvement over the course of the season at left guard. On the right side of center, though, the Chargers need to do some work. With the departure of Bryan Bulaga and expected departure of Oday Aboushi, the Chargers need to fill the right guard and tackle spots. Storm Norton did a solid job filling in for Bulaga at right tackle last season, but the Chargers could certainly do better.
The NFL draft is probably the Chargers’ best chance to address this issue, as the 2022 draft class has some solid options. Pete Prisco at CBS Sports, in his mock draft, has the Chargers taking Trevor Penning, an offensive tackle from Northern Iowa, at pick 17; a pick that I absolutely love. Penning is massive, standing at 6/7 and 330 pounds, with an 83-inch wingspan to boot. Not to mention, he has the strength and athleticism to match. He is admittedly a bit of a raw prospect, but the upside he presents could be a game-changer for a win-now Chargers team.
Tom Telesco and the Chargers were very active this offseason; far more so than past seasons. Telesco secured several superstar-caliber defensive players, along with two talented tackles to address a massive team need in run defense. And let’s not forget: he also brought back one of the team’s rising stars in receiver Mike Williams! Compared to previous offseasons, it was refreshing for Chargers fans to see Telesco take an aggressive approach to this offseason. It felt as if he was ready to make that Super Bowl push that Chargers fans have only dreamed of since those talented 2000s teams.
Overall, I give Telesco and the Chargers’ front office an A grade for their moves in free agency. The additions of Mack, Jackson, Joseph-Day, and Johnson should have earned an A+ grade. However, the losses of Uchenna Nwosu and expected loss of Kyzir White only exacerbated an existing issue, one which the Chargers did not address at all in free agency. This was the Chargers’ free agency in review.