The Los Angeles Chargers took a step forward in 2021 but showed plenty of work remains to close the gap with Kansas City in the AFC West. The Chiefs remain the division’s gold standard, and to get on that level, LA’s defense must play better than it did in two meetings in 2021 (when the Bolts allowed 933 yards and 59 first downs). We explore it all — team needs, pending free agents, available cap space, and 2022 NFL Draft picks — in the Chargers’ offseason preview.
Los Angeles Chargers 2022 Offseason Preview
The nucleus of this talented team is largely under contract in 2022. The Chargers’ six Pro Bowlers — quarterback Justin Herbert, wide receiver Keenan Allen, tackle Rashawn Slater, center Corey Linsley, outside linebacker Joey Bosa, and safety Derwin James — should all be back. That’s a great place to start an offseason that should present some intriguing opportunities to build.
We expect the Chargers to give the most attention to a defense that surrendered way too many points and way too many yards on the ground. Los Angeles also had one of the worst third-down defenses in football in 2021. Brandon Staley knows what needs to be done to put the Chargers among the elite. Now it’s simply a matter of doing it.
Chargers have $72.5 million in projected cap space
Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 9)
The Chargers enter 2022 with the second-most cap space in football largely because they have just 35 players under contract — including 23 projected to count less than $2 million each against the cap. Six players — Bosa, Allen, Linsley, James, Bryan Bulaga, and Michael Davis — account for 55% of their active contract spending.
There are opportunities to free up space, but they don’t have to make cuts for the sake of it. With 33 players under contract entering the offseason, the Chargers will have a few tough decisions. However, their cap space flexibility should prevent them from having to get rid of any major contributors.
Chargers’ pending free agents
The Chargers had two 1,000-yard receivers in 2021. One of them is about to get paid. Mike Williams is an unrestricted free agent and a must-keep for Los Angeles. Spotrac estimates his market value at $16.3 million annually. The franchise tag number for a wide receiver is projected to be around $18.4 million.
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One way or the other, the Chargers have to make sure they retain Williams, or at the very least find a competent replacement. Beyond Williams, the Chargers’ 18-man UFA list includes tackle Oday Aboushi, tight end Jared Cook, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, and cornerback Chris Harris. The decisions around those four could all be interesting heading into the free agency period this offseason.
Chargers’ team needs
Expect the Chargers to invest significantly in the trenches this offseason. Los Angeles’ decision to give Bulaga a three-year, $30 million contract was a mistake. He has earned $19.3 million and logged 490 snaps. LA will almost certainly cut Bulaga (if he doesn’t retire) and then look for a right tackle to play with Slater in 2022.
Meanwhile, Staley surely wants to get Bosa some help on the defensive line. Bosa carried a pass rush that ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards per carry allowed and sack rate. This is a team that can make small improvements in a number of places. Expect them to be linked with a number of free agents this offseason given that and their plentiful cap space.
Chargers’ top five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason
- Edge defender
- Defensive tackle
- Wide receiver
Chargers’ 2022 NFL Draft picks
The Chargers’ decision to let Hunter Henry, Rayshawn Jenkins, Tyrod Taylor, Denzel Perryman, Dan Feeney, and Sam Tevi walk in free agency last year was sound. It helped get their books in order, and it set up a 2022 NFL Draft that should feature four compensatory picks.
To see how the Chargers draft picks stack up compared to other teams, check out the current 2022 NFL Draft order.
- Round 1 (Pick 17)
- Round 2 (Pick 16)
- Round 3 (Pick 15)
- Round 4 (Pick 18)
- Round 5 (Pick 17)
- Round 6 (Pick 16)
- Round 7 (Pick 15)