Chargers roster checkup: Which positions need a free-agency revitalization?

Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr., left, celebrates with wide receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Gerald Everett.
Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr., left, celebrates with wide receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Gerald Everett after scoring a touchdown during a win against the Rams on New Year’s Day.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
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They added everything from a Pro Bowl edge rusher to a punter, signed everything from six defensive starters to a long snapper.

The 2022 offseason was an active and pricey one for the Chargers, the team committing $78.172 million in fully guaranteed money to 11 free agents who became significant contributors.

The moves began with a trade for Khalil Mack in early March and continued through the signing of Morgan Fox in mid-May.


The Chargers rebuilt their defense and special teams and added Gerald Everett and DeAndre Carter as options for quarterback Justin Herbert.

Despite rumors to contrary and salary-cap concerns, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco declared star receiver Keenan Allen ‘isn’t going anywhere.’

March 1, 2023

Now, with the 2023 free-agent negotiating period set to open Monday, they look to continue to push coming off a season in which they finished 10-7 and returned to the playoffs.

The Chargers recently reworked four contracts to give themselves some financial relief for the start of the new league year. They entered the weekend with $19 million in salary-cap space, according to

Here’s a position-by-position look at their roster as the player-movement season draws closer:



Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 18.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


The only drama here is whether Herbert and the team can agree on an extension this offseason, the first in which the 2020 first-round pick is eligible for a second contract.

Any deal for Herbert would put him among the group of quarterbacks with at least $100 million fully guaranteed, a club that right now numbers five — Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen.

Both of the quarterbacks behind Herbert on the depth chart last season — Chase Daniel and Easton Stick — are set to be unrestricted free agents. The Chargers also will have a new quarterbacks coach (Doug Nussmeier) in 2023.


Running backs

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, left, carries the ball behind wide receiver Mike Williams.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, left, carries the ball behind wide receiver Mike Williams against the Las Vegas Raiders in September.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Austin Ekeler has scored an NFL-best 38 scrimmage touchdowns over the past two years. That’s 12 more than second-place James Conner.


Next season, Ekeler is set to make a base salary of only $6.25 million, which is well below his market value. This will be a situation to monitor throughout the offseason as Ekeler clearly has some leverage.

The Chargers continue to search for a second reliable running back, with Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller still vying for the job. They are hoping for marked growth in particular from Spiller, who won’t turn 22 until August.

Despite rumors to contrary and salary-cap concerns, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco declared star receiver Keenan Allen ‘isn’t going anywhere.’

March 1, 2023


Wide receivers/tight ends

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen celebrates after catching a 42-yard pass against the Raiders in September.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Everett is coming off his best NFL season statistically but also continued to experience the sort of mental lapses that have marked his career.

Tre’ McKitty’s future is as a blocker, and Donald Parham Jr.’s health remains a concern as he is set to become a restricted free agent, making tight end a thin position for the Chargers.


They have a solid trio of wide receivers in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer, but some field-stretching speed on the outside would really maximize Herbert’s long-ball skills.

More than free agency, the draft would seem to be the place for the Chargers to better address these needs. Wide receiver and tight end — along with offensive line — are the most popular positions for the Chargers in the various mock drafts.


Offensive line

Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Trey Pipkins III lines up against the Denver Broncos on Jan. 8.
(Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

Right tackle Trey Pipkins III is set to be an unrestricted free agent, and his departure would leave a hole, one that Jamaree Salyer could potentially fill.

A 2022 sixth-round pick, Salyer was pressed into starting at left tackle after Rashawn Slater tore his biceps in Week 3. With Slater’s return, Salyer also could move to left guard, if the Chargers release Matt Feiler.


Depending on what happens with Pipkins, the team again could be looking to draft another offensive lineman early. The Chargers’ past two first-round picks have been Slater in 2021 and right guard Zion Johnson in 2022.


Defensive line

Chargers defensive tackle Austin Johnson lines up against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 9.
(Kirk Irwin / Associated Press)

The Chargers signed Fox for one year and $1.1 million, with only $100,000 fully guaranteed. He played his way into a deal much better than that and probably beyond the Chargers’ means.

The return of Austin Johnson will help after the veteran was limited to eight games in 2022 because of injury. But he’s coming off a significant knee issue, so the Chargers aren’t sure about his status.

This is a position where help is needed behind Sebastian Joseph-Day. The Chargers will add to their defensive front as their problems stopping the run continued last year.


Sam Farmer’s crystal ball: NFL mock draft 2023 version 1.0. Farmer makes his first-round pick predictions.

March 4, 2023


Edge rushers

Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa jogs off the field after a playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in January.
(Gary McCullough / Associated Press)

Depth is the concern at a position where the Chargers open with Mack and Joey Bosa, two Pro Bowl-performing players capable of greatly impacting games.

But the team’s third edge rusher is Chris Rumph II, who has three career sacks in two seasons and played only 33% of the defensive snaps last year.

Veteran Kyle Van Noy emerged as a valuable addition as the season progressed, the Chargers relying on his pass rush ability in Bosa’s injury absence. But Van Noy is about to become a free agent.



Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill hypes up his teammates before a win over the Rams in December.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)


Drue Tranquill just led the Chargers in tackles and proved to be a valuable leader in relaying the signals in the defensive huddle. But he, too, is set to hit free agency.

Replacing Tranquill wouldn’t be easy since he also established himself in 2022 as a weapon in the pass rush, finishing behind only Mack and Fox on the team with five sacks.

Last year, Kenneth Murray Jr. appeared in all 17 games — 16 of them starts — the second time in three NFL seasons that he has been available for the full schedule.

With new coordinators and a developing roster, coach Brandon Staley explains how the Chargers still are much better despite being over the salary cap.

Feb. 28, 2023



Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson carries the ball during a team practice in June.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The Chargers’ splashiest free-agent signing a year ago was J.C. Jackson. They’re still not completely sure what they have in the veteran cornerback.


Jackson struggled to fit into head coach Brandon Staley’s system early and was benched. After returning, he suffered a torn patellar tendon, an injury that will require extensive work to make it back.

Slot corner Bryce Callahan and safety Nasir Adderley are pending free agents. The Chargers have the option of moving Alohi Gilman into Adderley’s starting spot, while Ja’Sir Taylor would be a possibility to replace Callahan.



JK Scott punts against the Arizona Cardinals in November.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

The Chargers made significant progress on special teams last year under new coordinator Ryan Ficken and assistant Chris Gould.

But their list of internal free agents now includes punter JK Scott and core special teamer Troy Reeder. Carter, who handled punt and kickoff returns, also will be free to sign elsewhere.


In a bit of an oddity given their recent history, the Chargers have two capable kickers in Dustin Hopkins and Cameron Dicker. They could keep both into training camp.