The Chargers are moving on from quarterback Philip Rivers. For most franchises, losing an entrenched franchise quarterback is cause for a roster reset. For the Chargers, it could be a relief.
Los Angeles slumped to 5-11 last season, a year after going 12-4 with a loaded roster on both sides of the ball. But Rivers struggled much of last season, throwing 20 interceptions to 23 touchdowns.
There is still plenty of talent in Los Angeles. Star pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram remain, though both are in the final year of their contracts. Emerging running back Austin Ekeler just signed a new four-year contract. Keenan Allen is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and safety Derwin James should bounce back after playing just five games last season due to injury.
Los Angeles Chargers (5-11), missed playoffs
With the right moves this offseason, the Chargers should be able to get back to the playoffs. These are the positions they need to target first:
Before free agency:
- Quarterback: Although head coach Anthony Lynn is a fan of backup Tyrod Taylor, the veteran is better served in a reserve role. The Chargers have the No. 6 pick in the first round. The trouble is they’re behind the Miami Dolphins, another quarterback-needy team. The Chargers could look for a free agent quarterback, but would that be any better than going with Taylor?
- Offensive tackle: The Chargers filled a hole on the offensive line by trading for guard Trai Turner, but opened up another by giving up left tackle Russell Okung for him. Right tackle Sam Tevi has been a below-average player throughout his career. Third-round pick Trey Pipkins started three games in his rookie season, and could press Tevi. That leaves the Chargers to find a left tackle in the draft. If they don’t take a quarterback with the sixth pick, they could have their choice of Mekhi Becton of Louisville, Jedrick Wills of Alabama, or Tristan Wirfs of Iowa.
- Cornerback: The Chargers finished last season ranked 32nd in the NFL in opponents’ completion percentage, allowing receptions on 70.7 percent of passes. That’s a shocking number considering Casey Hayward has Pro Bowl talent. The other outside spot needs addressed this offseason.
What Bolts from the Blue wants most this offseason: The Chargers are at a potential crossroads with the sixth pick. The majority of the media believes they’ll take a quarterback. But there’s a growing minority that believes they can survive in 2020 with Taylor and go with the best available offensive tackle or defensive player. With signal callers like Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields in next year’s draft, I think it may be worth waiting one more year to secure the future. Besides the most pressing needs, the Chargers could use a third wide receiver, another outside cornerback, or more depth at linebacker. — Michael Peterson
After free agency:
The Chargers got a lot better with the addition of three veterans: offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, and cornerback Chris Harris. Finally, they made the smart move to franchise tag tight end Hunter Henry. However, their biggest needs still remain going into the draft.
- Quarterback: The Chargers like Taylor a lot. That doesn’t make this position any less of a need, especially since the pickings get slimmer at quarterback after the first round this year.
- Linebacker: Thomas Davis was a cap casualty, while Denzel Perryman has been a lackluster performer and is likely out after this coming season. Drue Tranquill is coming off a promising rookie campaign, but LA needs multiple linebackers to reinforce the defense.
- Offensive tackle: While the Chargers’ offensive line improved with the additions of Turner and Bulaga, they vacated the left tackle spot when they traded Okung. Bulaga has played there before, but he’s at his best on the right side.
After the draft:
The Chargers wasted no time to go after a quarterback in the draft with the selection of Oregon’s Justin Herbert at No. 6 overall. Whether Herbert starts right away or not, he has the look, and talent, to be a franchise quarterback.
Then, the Chargers traded back into the first round to target their second-biggest need: linebacker. They landed Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray, who should be able to help immediately.