Free Agency

Depth Disasters: Four Spots Still in Dire Need


Tom Telesco has raced into free agency with his cowboy boots on, lassoing a quartet of frontline players in Travis Benjamin, Brandon Mebane, Dwight Lowery and Casey Hayward. However, his herd has suffered some thinning, as well, and is now perilously thin in a few areas.

After looking at the 53-man depth chart as it stands now, we’re identifying the positions in most need of improved depth and offering up potential solutions.

Defensive End

After blue-chipper Corey Liuget, there is not much else at this position. Tenny Palepoi will return after missing his sophomore season with a foot injury; Darius Philion should be a little better with some experience under his belt; and Damion Square just recently signed on for one more season. All are nice prospects, but none are worthy of the starting spot opposite Liuget.

Kendall Reyes had been the starter at left defensive end for the last three seasons, but he has signed a one-year deal to join the Redskins. Ricardo Mathews, another member of last season’s rotation, remains an unrestricted free agent.

The Chargers could solve all of this in a hurry by drafting Oregon DE DeForest Buckner with the No. 3 overall pick. That would give the Chargers a dominant starting line of Liuget, Mebane and Buckner, while allowing Palepoi, Philon, Square and Ryan Carrethers to man the backup roles for which they are best suited.

If the Chargers wait until later in the draft, Illinois DT Jihad Ward and South Carolina State DT Javon Hargrave are two players to watch.

Inside Linebacker

Telesco gutted the depth at this position by releasing Donald Butler and Kavell Conner. While both moves made sense from a financial standpoint, they raise the question: “What happens when Manti Te’o inevitably suffers a lower leg injury?”

The only backups inside linebackers on the roster now are Nick Dzubnar, who played primarily on special teams last season after making the team as an undrafted rookie, and CFL import Dexter McCoil.

The Chargers will not spend a high pick on the position, as Denzel Perryman and Te’o are high-level starters, but spending a middle-round pick on Nick Vigil (Utah State) or Tyler Matakevich (Temple) makes a lot of sense.

Offensive Line

For all the good Telesco has done this offseason, you have to ask: ”How can this team bring in four outside free agents and not one of them is an offensive lineman?”
Several offensive linemen who were on the roster last year are still floating around in free agency, including Chris Hairston, Johnnie Troutman and J.D. Walton. None of them are expected to be re-signed.

The Chargers need depth both outside at tackle and on the interior. It is possible the outside will be taken care of early on in the draft, as Telesco could pluck Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) or Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame) with the No. 3 overall pick. But if the Chargers go with Buckner at No. 3 (and I think they should), the offensive line will become a focus immediately thereafter.

At tackle, the Chargers could look at Jason Spriggs (Indiana) in the second round or Willie Beavers (Western Michigan) in the fourth. At guard, Cody Whitehair (Kansas State) is a third-round candidate and Alex Huettel (Bowling Green) offers some upside late on Day Three.

Another option is to draft USC center Max Tuerk in the third or fourth round and then move Chris Watt to guard.

No matter how it shakes out, Telesco must spend multiple picks on the offensive line to replenish this mess of a position.

Tight End

The Chargers kept the one that mattered most (Antonio Gates), but Ladarius Green is gone. Fellow backups John Phillips and David Johnson are as good as gone, too, as unrestricted free agents.

The Chargers could draft a tight end as early as the third round, with South Carolina’s Jerell Adams being the leading candidate at that point. If Telesco opts to wait until later, Iowa’s Henry Krieger-Coble offers good value at any point in the final three rounds. Another intriguing developmental candidate is San Jose State TE Billy Freeman, who is undersized (6’3” 218 lbs.) but productive.

Because the Chargers need to add at least two tight ends, look for Telesco to sign at least one more veteran in free agency. Clay Harbor (Jaguars) and Rob Blanchflower (Steelers) are two affordable options worth monitoring.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

Recommended for you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *