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Chargers, Justin Herbert

Biggest need the Chargers must address in free agency before the 2021 NFL Draft

The Los Angeles Chargers wasted little time addressing offseason needs along the interior offensive line when free agency opened. However, they neglected needs at tackle, receiver, edge rusher, and safety.

Luckily, the Chargers still have the upcoming NFL Draft to address several of their needs. What glaring roster spot should the Bolts fill in free agency, before the NFL Draft?

Salary Cap

At the moment, the Chargers have about $21 million in cap space. With that, about $7 million should get spent on re-signing draft picks. That leaves $14 million in cap space for the Chargers to sign a few impact-free agents before the draft. The team is in the middle of some financial drama but that should not hold them back.

L.A. should finally debut SoFi stadium to fans for live-action in 2021. The Rams spent their offseason mixing up their team, despite being only a few years removed from a Super Bowl. If the Chargers want to make a name for themselves in Los Angeles, the Bolts need to rack up wins and star power. They need a playoff run to compete in L.A.

Thus, the Chargers should spend every last dollar to compete in the AFC West. Los Angeles is a young team led by second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. They should use their cap room to add a few veteran free agents on both offense and defense.

Where do the Chargers’ remaining roster priorities lie?

Offensive Team Needs

Los Angeles addressed needs at center and guard by signing center Corey Linsley as well as guards Oday Aboushi and Matt Feller.

Signing interior offensive linemen was mandatory since the team cut guard Trai Turner for cap space. Dan Feeney and Forest Lamp both walked in free agency after contributing along the starting offensive line.

However, the tackle position still needs work. Brian Bulaga could play either tackle position but he is best suited at right tackle. The Bolts could also use a franchise left tackle to grow into Herbert’s blindside protector.

Either way, L.A. may end up signing a veteran tackle. Former Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva is still available. Russell Okung and Eric Fisher also make sense due to their extensive experience. Both are coming off season-ending injuries. Okung also played a few underwhelming seasons with the Chargers.

The Chargers may also consider adding a receiver in free agency. Golden Tate and Antonio Brown probably have more juice left than you might think. They could do well complimenting the Chargers’ bigger targets outside.

Cordarrelle Patterson and Marquise Goodwin add some speed and special team versatility. Marqise Lee and Tavon Austin offer starting experience too. Yet, they might not be better than what is already on the roster.

If the Chargers want a player under 30, they could give DeDe Westbrook a prove-it deal. They could give Laquon Treadwell or Devin Smith one more chance to live up to their draft hype.

Point is, Los Angeles should look to address their offensive needs earlier in the draft. The free agency pool doesn’t offer many upgrades at tackle or receiver for the Chargers, presently.

Defensive Team Needs

On defense, the Chargers need a third safety. Rayshawn Jenkins inked a huge contract with the Jaguars. Jahleel Addae is still a free agent and not expected back.

Again, the Chargers can find starting experience in Damarious Randall, Kenny Vacarro, Bradley McDougald, Teshaun Gipson, or Tre Boston.

Los Angeles could sign Dean Marlowe or Karl Joseph who both have starting experience. Marlowe is off one of his best seasons in Buffalo. Malik Hooker also offers a lot of upside when healthy. He was a can’t miss draft pick in the 2017 draft. They are all on the right side of thirty and they could fill the Chargers’ third safety role nicely.

Nonetheless, the Chargers don’t have to sign a safety in free agency. They will bank on Nasir Adderly getting better and Derwin James staying healthy. L.A. can add a third safety in the draft’s middle rounds.

Most Glaring Free Agency Need

The Chargers remaining free agency priority is signing an edge rusher. Melvin Ingram is a free agent but does not appear to return. He had a down year with zero sacks while he missed half the season with an injury. Ingram is on the wrong side of thirty and he has had notable contract issues with the Chargers in the past.

Thus, L.A. should use most of its remaining cap space to sign an edge rusher. Right now, Uchenna Nwosu is slated on the edge opposite Joey Bosa. Nwosu has 10 career sacks in three seasons. The Bolts have used the 24-year-old at different spots in their front seven. Los Angeles could give Nwosu competition and a mentor by signing a free agent edge rusher before the draft.

Fortunately, there are still high-quality edge rushers for the Chargers to look at signing over the next few weeks.

Olivier Vernon, Ryan Kerrigan, Aldon Smith, Everson Griffen, and Justin Houston are all quality veteran free agents left. They prove you can still contribute on the edge past thirty.

Vernon had his best season since 2018 with 9 sacks and 16 QB hits. Kerrigan finished with 5.5 sacks in his first year off the bench. Smith finished last year with 5 sacks after four missed seasons. Griffen finished last year with 6 sacks at age 34.

All bring scheme versatility and experience that fit the Chargers. They should all take reasonable contracts at this point in free agency. They could thrive as situational rushers competing with Nwosu opposite Bosa.

Houston probably has the highest price tag of that group. He registered 19 sacks over his last two seasons in Indy. Vernon is probably second.

You also can’t forget Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney battled injuries again last year and he did not register a sack. However, he is under 30 and would give the Chargers a superb athlete opposite Bosa. Clowney is still a force against the run and has upside as a pass rusher on a one-year prove-it deal. Still, the Chargers may not want his price tag or injury history. They can find someone a bit older and cheaper as mentioned before.

Other Considerations

There are other quality depth options on the edge if the Chargers miss on the bigger names.

Trent Murphy had two sacks in a limited role with Buffalo. Ronald Blair did not play last year. He is 28 with 13.5 sacks over four seasons with the 49ers. Dion Jordan had 3 sacks in a limited role with the 49ers. Alex Okafor finished last year with 3 sacks as a backup for Kansas City. He knows the division. Again, they provide competition and scheme versatility for the Bolts.

Vic Beasley finished last year with no sacks between two teams but he is under 30. Bruce Irvin and Ziggy Ansah are both on the wrong side of 30 and coming off season-ending injuries. Still, they could be bargain players with some upside. Let’s not forget the Chargers have also seen Bosa battle injuries.

Los Angeles must sign a veteran edge rusher in free agency before the draft next month. There are still many players who can contribute or start for the Bolts on the edge.