Chargers looking to improve with low-key moves

Chargers looking to improve with low-key moves
The Chargers are not expected to make a big splash in the free-agent market after retaining outside linebacker Melvin Ingram with the franchise tag. (Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

When the first ball is snapped inside the delightfully intimate StubHub Center and the Chargers really become Los Angeles' team, they'll have an opportunity to truly build a fan base and a buzz around the team.

In the meantime, they're kind of stuck.


Still working out of offices that say "San Diego Chargers" on the façade, the team's slogan ("Fight for L.A.") has become a long-distance cry. As they try and find a slice of their new town's attention, they might be tempted to do something ill-conceived, to "make a splash" in order to get their new town talking.

Luckily, obtaining two or three mega free agents wouldn't solve the needs in the Chargers' personnel. And their checkbook won't allow for it, either.

With a modest budget and their biggest ticket item — pass rusher Melvin Ingram — franchise-tagged, the Chargers enter free agency and draft season needing to get a little better on a lot of different fronts to try and impress their new market on the football field.

Ingram was (and is) the top priority. A dynamic rusher who is also tough against the run, the Chargers want him lining up opposite of rookie sensation Joey Bosa, possibly giving the team the top pass-rushing ends in the league.

"Pass rush wins in this league," Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said last week. "We have Joey Bosa on one side. If we don't have Melvin Ingram, we have a pretty big hole. We like what we've seen from Melvin. I think he still has room to get better, too."

While Ingram can play under the franchise tag, Telesco said the goal is to sign the 27-year-old defender to a long-term deal, and if the team can do so, it allows Telesco a chance to structure it in a more salary cap-friendly way.

The Chargers have also had discussions with free-agent running back Danny Woodhead and safety Jahleel Addae about returning to the team.

If things sort out the right way, the Chargers could maybe land another top-tier guy this offseason, though a lot of smaller, marginal upgrades seem more likely.

Still, outside help will be needed to make sure the on-field product has people in Los Angeles talking.

Offensive line

Finding people to protect quarterback Philip Rivers and to create lanes for running back Melvin Gordon should be the team's top priority on the offensive side of the football. Tackles Andrew Whitworth, Ricky Wagner and Russell Okung, and guards Kevin Zeitler and T.J. Lang, should get the biggest deals this summer. The Chargers will probably have to find someone with flaws and hope a new situation cures those ills. Former USC star Matt Kalil is coming off hip surgery and could help at tackle if he's healthy.

Wide receiver

On paper, this is a loaded position for the Chargers, with star Keenan Allen being flanked by Travis Benjamin and emerging threats Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman. But, Allen's health — he missed almost all of last season because of an ACL injury — has been troublesome enough where the team could look to improve their depth. Recently released Brandon Marshall could fit nicely with Rivers. The team could also look for a wideout who can make an impact in the return game, too.



The Chargers have put together a group of young linebackers through the past few drafts, taking Denzel Perryman and Kyle Emanuel in 2015 and Jatavis Brown and Joshua Perry in 2016. Still, a strong veteran presence could help bring the best out of this group. New England's Dont'a Hightower is the best inside linebacker available, but he'll be pricey. Oakland's Perry Riley could be a good option at a slightly lower cost.


The Chargers have had a cornerback make the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons, and if they're healthy, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward are great options on the outside. But in this pass-heavy era of football, two cornerbacks aren't enough, and neither really fits the past preferences of their new defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, for tall, long defensive backs. While Bradley says Verrett and Hayward play taller than their size, adding depth here is important, especially if the team parts ways with vet Brandon Flowers, who missed most of last season because of concussion issues.


Whether the team signs Addae or not, safeties helped define Bradley's Seahawks defenses. The 4-3 scheme the team is switching to is, in part, designed to allow for immediate contributions from young players and veterans alike. While the Chargers could pick from a talented group at the draft (LSU's Jamal Adams, Ohio State's Malik Hooker and Michigan's Jabrill Peppers), there'll be a lot of talent on the free-agent market, too. Green Bay's Micah Hyde, one of the most versatile defenders in the NFL, could be worth the hefty price tag because of his ability to play corner.

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports