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Chargers draft analysis: Replacement at free safety needed, and maybe a corner

Chargers draft analysis: Replacement at free safety needed, and maybe a corner
Delaware safety Nasir Adderley carries the ball after intercepting a pass at the Senior Bowl in January. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 3 of eight: Defensive backs.

An encouraging 2018 Chargers season actually began three months before the first sweat droplet of training camp.

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In late April, with the 17th overall pick in the draft, the team selected Derwin James in a fit of astonishingly good fortune.

The versatile and athletic safety out of Florida State fell to the Chargers in such a dramatic and unexpected way that those running the team still haven’t quite figured how it transpired.

James, Adrian Phillips and Desmond King then spent the season establishing themselves as All-Pros and pretty much all-everything-elses, making the secondary one of the Chargers’ strengths.

Along with veterans Casey Hayward at cornerback and Jahleel Addae at safety, the Chargers relied heavily on their defensive backs as the season progressed — right up until the team imploded en masse in its second playoff game.

Entering 2019, the group remains intact with the exception of Addae, a salary cap casualty who remains a free agent.

The Chargers still could use a replacement at free safety, with Delaware’s Nasir Adderley one possibility when they pick 28th in the draft.

Their roster currently includes Rayshawn Jenkins, a fourth-round pick in 2017, and veteran Jaylen Watkins, who missed 2018 because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee suffered in August.

“We drafted Rayshawn and we need to continue to develop him and see if he can play the position,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “Now, if someone falls into our lap that we think is an outstanding player and can come in and compete for a job, we may take a look at that. But we have a lot of confidence in Rayshawn. And Jaylen was having a pretty good preseason before he got hurt.”

Under contract for 2019: Casey Hayward ($10 million), Derwin James ($2.815 million), Trevor Williams ($2.025 million), Adrian Phillips ($2 million), Rayshawn Jenkins ($810,553), Desmond King ($715,000), Jaylen Watkins ($705,000), Michael Davis ($645,000), Brandon Facyson ($573,333), Jeff Richards ($570,000), Arrion Springs ($495,000).

Free agents: Addae was a solid contributor during his six seasons with the Chargers. He struggled at times in 2018 mostly because he was playing out of position at free safety. There was a notable run on safeties early in the free agency signing period. The price tag, however, proved too costly for the Chargers and their limited cap room.

Draft: Despite playing at small-school Delaware, Adderley appears to be a high-level prospect and may not be available when the Chargers make their first pick. Various mock drafts have the Chargers taking a cornerback in the opening round, which is a possibility in that they could desire a more reliable option to play opposite Hayward.

Roster decisions: Michael Davis, an undrafted free agent entering his third season, took over at cornerback for the final nine games last year in place of Trevor Williams, who was hurt and then couldn’t play his way back into the lineup before ending up on the injured list. If Williams is able to return to form, that spot could be one of the more spirited battles in training camp.

NEXT: Special teams.

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