Chargers Mailbag: Keenan Allen’s Contract Situation, NFL Draft Options and More Offseason Questions
Answering questions that surround the Chargers to begin the offseason.
Welcome to the first mailbag of the Chargers offseason on ChargerReport.com. I’ll be doing mailbags periodically over the next few months, touching on free agency, the NFL Draft and other key offseason dates.
You can enter submissions to be included in the mailbag by tweeting at me here.
Question No. 1 from @Gabriel_5718: Do you see the Chargers drafting a speedy WR or a TE?
I don’t think it’s far-fetched to believe the Chargers end up drafting a wide receiver and a tight end.
The need for speed at wide receiver haunted the Chargers for the better part of this past season, having little to no vertical threats for Justin Herbert to flash his superior arm strength. Not to mention, there’s plenty of options in the Chargers’ drafting range that offer speed the team could without question use. Players like Zay Flowers of Boston College and Jalin Hyatt of Tennessee could be possible targets.
Obviously, things may change depending on how the free agency period unfolds, but I find it hard-pressed to imagine the Chargers don’t add a wide receiver with one of their first two picks.
At tight end, a lot will hinge on the future of Gerald Everett. In the event he becomes a cut candidate to shed money off the books, the need at the position becomes much greater. Therefore, the Chargers could dip into an extraordinary deep tight end class. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network has six tight ends ranked inside his top 50 players.
And if Everett remains on the roster for a second year, they’re probably still in the market to add a tight end. The depth at the position underperformed from a pass-catching perspective, but especially from a blocking standpoint. In this scenario, I think they add a tight end on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
Question No. 2 from @BoltUpAndrew: While restructuring Keenan Allen’s contract would create cap space, it would avoid them getting out of his contract after the ‘23 season. Do you think they restructure, leave his contract as is, cut or trade him this offseason?
In regards to contract restructuring, I don’t think Keenan Allen is a candidate for that. While he carries a cap hit this season of $21.7 million, restructuring his deal just pushes money into future years, which in theory ties him to the team for another season based on the guaranteed money that would get kicked down the line.
Deep down, I’m sure the Chargers would like to keep Allen around. But in being $20.2 million over the salary cap, according to Over The Cap‘s current calculations, it makes things quite difficult. NFL Network reported that teams were informed the salary cap for the 2023 season will increase to a record $224.8 million per club, so that does offer some relief, and could be the saving grace that keeps Allen on the roster for at least another year.
I would imagine the Chargers will at least take phone calls from teams on what it would take to trade for Allen. General manager Tom Telesco indicated at his end-of-season press conference that he would like to keep Allen, but juggling the checkbook during the offseason while trying to add players could result in a sudden change.
“It’s not tempting to me,” Telesco said last month about the idea of releasing or trading Allen. “Good players make money.”
Allen is still highly productive, logging 56 catches for 593 yards and three touchdowns across his last seven games. And even with him on the roster, the Chargers need to add wide receivers. Without him, the position group would need a lot of retooling that would take multiple additions.
Ultimately, I think the Chargers cut bait with a handful of other players in an effort to keep Allen. Possible cut candidates include cornerback Michael Davis ($7.4 million in savings), left guard Matt Feiler ($6.5 million in savings), tight end Gerald Everett ($4.25 million in savings) and kicker Dustin Hopkins ($2.29 million in savings post-June 1).
Contract restructures for players in it for the long haul are also possible as the Chargers seek additional cap space.
Question No. 3 from @Jesse45De: How important is adding another pass rusher to the roster this offseason?
Other than wide receiver, edge rusher is probably the second-biggest need on the roster. Quite simply, the team needs more behind Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. The insurance they had last year with Kyle Van Noy and Chris Rumph took a while to crystalize, but once they finally found their stride, the defense performed to a different level.
Prior to Van Noy’s late season surge, the Chargers had gone 11 consecutive games without a sack from an edge rusher outside of Mack’s efforts. Without Bosa lining up opposite of Mack for most of the season, the Chargers vastly struggled to manufacture a pass rush.
They could bring back Van Noy, but his final six games that featured five sacks may have priced the Chargers out of his market. I think they’re much more likely to select an edge rusher at some point either on Day 1 or 2 of the NFL Draft.
Question No. 4 from @BoltLounge: Seems like everyone is saying we are going skill offensive position in the draft. Would it be surprising if we stick with the best player available strategy and end up with a RT or Edge?
Just about every head coach and general manager preach the idea of taking the best player available. But at the end of the day, teams fill positional needs with their first few picks in the draft each year.
For example, the last two drafts the Chargers have selected Zion Johnson and Rashawn Slater. Both players slotted into the team’s biggest area of need entering the draft.
I think the most likely scenario is the Chargers draft for need, and add a wide receiver or tight end with their first pick. That’s assuming they re-sign Trey Pipkins, which I believe will be a priority.
If last season showed anything, it’s that you can never have enough pass-catchers. The Chargers played multiple games during the middle part of the season with several practice squad players being active on game day because of injuries cleaning out much of their wide receiver group.
I think a speedy wide receiver or a do-it-all tight end is the most realistic possibility with the No. 22 overall pick.
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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.
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