The Los Angeles Chargers’ 2018 season ended with a loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Patriots. Still, the Chargers finally made the playoffs with their 12-4 regular record and they won a playoff game over the Ravens. L.A. finished second in the AFC West and looked like a real Super Bowl contender throughout the season.
Now, they’ll try to build on last season with a bold offseason. The Bolts own all seven of their picks in the 2019 draft and $18 million in cap space this offseason.
Who will Los Angeles sign and draft? How will they spend their money?
Here are a few bold predictions for the Chargers upcoming season.
4. The Chargers copy the Rams
Last season, the Chargers couldn’t uphold their end of an L.A. only Super Bowl. The Bolts watched their Los Angeles counterparts, the Rams, make a Super Bowl last year. The Rams breakout season occurred after they spent the entire 2018 offseason making acquisitions. The Rams traded for players like Brandin Cooks and Marcus Peters. They also signed key veterans like Ndamukong Suh too.
Expect the Chargers to use the same aggressive strategy as last year’s Rams this year. The Chargers are desperate for fans in the growing NFL market that is L.A. They’re also desperate to win a Super Bowl. That makes growth by acquisition a key component of how the Chargers take the next step this offseason.
Don’t be surprised if the Chargers are aggressive in the linebacker and tackle markets. They can use some upgrades in their linebacker corps and Anthony Barr, C.J. Mosley, K.J. Wright, Kwon Alexander and ZaDarius Smith could all be free agent upgrades to the Chargers front-seven. Daryl Williams could also upgrade the Chargers tackle spot and he’s coming off injury so he could come at a bargain.
They don’t have a ton of cap space but they should use what they have to get one or two guys that can really upgrade their talent, like the Rams did last year.
The point is, expect the Chargers to go after one or two marquee free agents who can get them over the hump. If not, they might also look to trade up in the NBA Draft to get a player they really want. L.A. might move some future draft picks if it would help them get some big upgrades. They could also move some of their draft picks for a player on the trade block, like the Rams did last offseason.
Capturing a big free agent or marquee draft pick will help the Chargers upgrade their roster and gain some hype in the super competitive L.A. sports market.
3. Bolts don’t extend Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon already said he won’t sign an extension before LeVeon Bell gets his contract. The Chargers RB then took it back a few days later saying he’d go in and sign the extension if the Chargers called.
Either way, Gordon is slated to earn $5.6 million in the last year of his rookie deal. The 2015 No. 15 pick rushed for 3,628 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns in his four seasons. Gordon also registered 1,577 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns over his young career. This past season, Gordon was Pro Football Focus’ 62nd overall player too. That all sounds like reasons why the Bolts should keep Gordon from free agency next year.
Still, Gordon’s market was set last season with Todd Gurley and David Johnson getting extensions last year. Gurley re-signed with the Rams for a four-year, $60 million last offseason that included $45 million guaranteed. Johnson got $39 million with $25 million guaranteed. Gordon’s new deal should fall somewhere between those since he is older than Gurley but younger than Johnson.
However, Gordon has played a whole season just once. The two-time Pro Bowler has missed 10 games over four seasons including five in this year’s playoff season. That’s enough durability questions to hit the pause button on an extension for Gordon this offseason.
Not to mention, teams aren’t exactly thrilled to paid running backs big money. Just ask Bell who sat out an entire season over a contract. Plus, the Chargers can still apply franchise or transition tags to Gordon which would impede Gordon’s hopes for the open market.
Ultimately, the Chargers will probably retain Gordon but they won’t rush into an extension this offseason.
2. L.A. drafts Philip Rivers’ replacement in the first round
For the past few seasons, rumors circulate that L.A. will draft Philip Rivers replacement. Now, ESPN’s Eric Williams said the team may consider drafting a QB considering they haven’t taken one since the seventh round of the 2018 draft.
L.A. drafting a quarterback in the first round isn’t exactly bold because Rivers is 37-years-old and never won a Super Bowl. Rumors circulate every offseason. However, it probably isn’t likely to happen either.
The Chargers’ Mock Draft tracker doesn’t list a single expert who mocked the Chargers taking a QB in the first round. Maybe they shouldn’t since the Chargers had Football Outsider’s third best offense and second-best passing attack thanks to Rivers. Instead, L.A. should probably work on making another great addition in the draft to help Rivers win a Super Bowl before he retires.
Drafting a QB in the first is even more unlikely to happen considering the Chargers said they wanted to workout a new contract for Rivers who is the last year of his contract. He’s also gone on record saying he doesn’t have a set age for retirement and that he still has a few good years. Los Angeles doesn’t seem to want to force him out as their G.M. has said he wants Rivers to be a Charger for life. It makes sense considering he’s the L.A. Chargers’ first franchise player as well as the last for the San Diego Chargers.
Nonetheless, the Chargers would be smart to make the move for Rivers’ replacement now. The Ravens drafted QB Lamar Jackson and they had Joe Flacco who is younger than Rivers and won a Super Bowl. The past few seasons, L.A. took fliers on developmental QB projects like Geno Smith and Cardale Jones instead of drafting Rivers’ proper heir. Part of that comes from Rivers’ unwillingness to mentor a young QB.
Regardless, Rivers won’t have a choice but to mentor a first round QB if L.A. takes a QB in the first round. That’s especially true if Philip wants to maintain his image of loving the Bolts brand. It also won’t look good to free agent suitors if Rivers doesn’t embrace the mentor role.
Either way, L.A. should make a move to draft Rivers’ replacement.
1. Jason Verrett Returns to L.A.
Corner Jason Verrett has only played five games over the past three seasons. Therefore, it’s not exactly bold if the Chargers don’t retain the 2014 No. 25 pick after he hits free agency this offseason. Verrett suffered an Achilles’ injury last year which ended his season before it even began.
It is even more unlikely when you consider the Chargers have Desmond King on the roster. King is a similar size and play both inside and outside corner well like Verrett. However, King can also play safety and he brings value as a returner. Not to mention, King hasn’t missed a game in his career.
Still, Verrett registered three interceptions and made a Pro Bowl in 2015, which was the last time the Chargers saw the corner play for an extensive period. That might not be enough to warrant a long-term deal but the Chargers could bring Verrett back on a one-year, prove-it-contract.
It’s a gamble that would make sense for Los Angeles, considering the corner market is very deep. This year’s top corner Ronald Darby is coming off his own season injury too.
For Verrett, the deal makes sense as well. He may take a one-year, guaranteed contract with the Chargers to prove to them or another team that he can stay healthy and play at high level.
That would help the 27-year-old cashout more next year.