Brandon Staley’s job might be safe, but big questions remain for Chargers
Staley and to a much lesser extent general manager Tom Telesco faced scrutiny throughout much of the fall before the Chargers rallied to secure the AFC’s top wild-card spot.
But a regular-season finale that included questionable decisions by the organization regarding playing time and then a 27-point meltdown Saturday in Jacksonville rekindled the outside chatter.
There also have been mounting questions about the future of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who finished his second season with the team.
A day after losing in nightmarish fashion to the Jaguars in the playoffs, Chargers players were adamant in their support of coach Brandon Staley.
In 2021, the Chargers were the AFC’s No. 1 passing offense and a top-five unit in points and total yards in the league.
After a stellar rookie year, quarterback Justin Herbert continued to advance by being named to the Pro Bowl and setting numerous franchise records.
But this season, the Chargers struggled running the ball and establishing consistency on offense as injuries made things more difficult.
As the Chargers continue to sort through the evaluation of the 2022 season, the franchise is looking at several significant decisions in the coming months.
There is no bigger topic than a possible extension for Herbert. The Chargers’ dynamic quarterback is eligible for a second contract.
Any deal for Herbert likely would come in somewhere around $50 million in annual average, with perhaps $200 million or so in total guarantees.
Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys overcame four missed extra-point attempts by Brett Maher in a 31-14 playoff victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The timing of any Herbert contract could be directly tied to Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, who also will be eligible for an extension this offseason.
Burrow was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft; Herbert was taken five spots later.
A Burrow extension would clearly define the parameters of a Herbert extension, meaning the Chargers quarterback and his representatives might be willing to wait.
Signing Herbert as soon as possible would seem to be the most advantageous approach for the Chargers since his price isn’t going to go down with the passing of time.
Another important decision awaits with wide receiver Keenan Allen, whose contract construction makes him a candidate to be cut.
After watching Brandon Staley get outclassed during a playoff collapse, the Chargers’ leadership must decide whether it can afford to keep him.
Allen turns 31 in April and is coming off a season in which he missed seven games because of a hamstring injury.
But parting ways with Allen would mean having to replace a lot of production, which the Chargers could try to do with Joshua Palmer and — presumably — a 2023 draft pick.
A point to remember about Allen and his potential future value is that he isn’t a receiver who relies on speed, suggesting he might age better than most at the position.
When it comes to other possible moves to free salary-cap space, the Chargers could release left guard Matt Feiler (and replace him with Jamaree Salyer) or restructure the contract of edge rusher Joey Bosa.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins also is a cut candidate, particularly with the emergence of Cameron Dicker during his rookie season.
The Chargers’ unrestricted free agents include: Drue Tranquill, Trey Pipkins III, Nasir Adderley, Kyle Van Noy, Bryce Callahan, Morgan Fox and DeAndre Carter.
Both of the quarterbacks behind Herbert — Chase Daniel and Easton Stick — also are set to be unrestricted free agents, as are contributors Christian Covington, JK Scott and Troy Reeder.
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