With free agency around the corner, the Chargers and teams across the NFL will begin making choices on how they construct their roster.
The Chargers have tough decisions that lie ahead to begin the offseason.
First, they need to become compliant with the salary cap, as they sit $20.5 million over the spending threshold, according to Over The Cap‘s roster calculations. The Chargers will be tasked with getting more than $20 million off the books before the new league year begins on March 15, which can be done via trade, cut or by restructuring contracts.
Then, it boils down to which internal options who are set to become free agents in two weeks are worth bringing back? Or does it make more sense to let them walk and go a different direction either in the form of free agency or the NFL Draft?
With free agency quickly approaching, it’s worth noting that the Chargers won’t have the luxury of spending to the same magnitude as they did last offseason when they splurged on the open market, allocating more money in a single offseason than any other year under Tom Telesco’s tenure. That won’t be the case this time around. Instead, each signing will have to be much more calculated due to the current financial situation they’re in entering the season ahead.
While the team’s roster reconstruction is soon to take place, there are a few players the Chargers should prioritize in free agency, keeping these players in-house for the 2023 season:
T Trey Pipkins
Entering the year in a training camp battle at left tackle with Storm Norton, Pipkins won out and played the best football of his short career. Pipkins made 14 starts, playing 898 offensive snaps in which he allowed just two sacks and eight quarterback hits. During the back-half of the year, Pipkins was in-and-out of the lineup, battling a sprained MCL. However, during that stretch, playing through a significant knee injury, Pipkins showed toughness to play hurt and remain an important fixture along the offensive line. The Chargers have used a first-round pick in each of the last two years on an offensive lineman, but the idea of retaining Pipkins and using that top draft choice at another position of greater need looks like the best plan of attack after he proved he’s capable of holding down right tackle with just minor limitations.
Contract projection: 2-year, $8 million ($4 million guaranteed)
P JK Scott
The Chargers special teams unit has haunted the franchise for years until last season’s drastic improvement in which they finished sixth in DVOA. Under coordinator Ryan Ficken, he’s turned around the special teams operation, and a big part of that has to do with the efforts from punter JK Scott. Signed last offseason to a one-year deal, Scott flipped the field regularly, thanks in part to his lofty hang-time that propelled him in averaging 44 yards per punt attempt. Scott’s consistency booming the ball is well worth an extension on behalf of the Chargers.
Contract projection: 2-year, $5.5 million ($3 million guaranteed)
CB Bryce Callahan
The Chargers received high-level contributions from Bryce Callahan patrolling the nickel cornerback position this past season. His value on the open market will be an interesting one. He carries with him a label of being somewhat injury-prone, dating back to his three years with the Denver Broncos. However, Callahan was able to shake some of that classification with the Chargers, playing all but two games as a result of an abdomen and groin injury. He’s entering his age 32 season, coming off arguably the best year of his career, setting career highs in tackles (47) and interceptions (3). Perhaps the Chargers could get priced out for Callahan, but it’s worth mentioning the connection that he and Brandon Staley share, having spent time together with three different teams along the course of his playing career. That could be a factor in Callahan returning to the Chargers, having so much familiarity with Staley and his defensive scheme. And quite frankly, the team needs him back. They don’t have a bonafide nickel cornerback replacement on the roster who’s ready to take on a starting role over the duration of a full season. Last year’s sixth-round pick Ja’Sir Taylor showed encouraging flashes, but in an ideal scenario, he’s more suited for a complimentary role in 2023 rather than a plug-and-play starter.
Contract projection: 1-year, $5 million ($5 million guaranteed)
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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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