The Los Angeles Chargers are heading to a new L.A. market in 2017. That means they will need to improve on a 5-11 record in 2016 if they hope to sell tickets and gain attention in the market.
All of that begins with the NFL Combine which starts next week. This allows the Chargers’ new head coach, Anthony Lynn, an opportunity to find players that address needs on his roster. The combine begins Feb. 28.
Moreover, Lynn and the Chargers will also have to fill voids via NFL free agency. Free agency begins the following week, on March 7. The Bolts will have about $20 million to spend on the open market, according to Over The Cap.
What positions will Los Angeles look to address during these key offseason periods? The Chargers’ top position needs are ranked below.
The Chargers had the No. 14-ranked offense in 2016. However, they must protect the quarterback if they want to maintain that status.
Rivers, 36, can only take so many sacks. His left tackle, King Dunlap, is 31-years-old and he’s had some offseason troubles already.
On the other side, offensive tackle Joe Barksdale received a 48.2 accumulative grade from Pro Football Focus. Therefore, the Chargers could afford to replace either or both of their tackles.
Unfortunately, there is no sure answer in the NFL Draft or free agency. Tackles can take some time to develop. Either way, this should be the team’s top priority at next week’s NFL combine, or the following week’s free agency.
On paper, the Chargers should be solid in the defensive backfield. However, starting safety Jahleel Addae is a pending free agent. Addae registered one interception for a touchdown and 41 tackles in eight games last season. It remains to be seen if Los Angeles will re-sign the safety.
At the corner position, the Chargers have three players who have made the Pro Bowl at some point during their career. This includes Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers, and Casey Hayward.
Still, Verrett got hurt and played in four games. Carr only played six games. Hence, Los Angeles should add some depth here.
In the end, the Chargers should look to add a versatile defensive back who can play safety and corner. Luckily, this NFL Draft class is loaded with talented players at corner and safety. The Chargers will be in a great position to snag one at No. 7 overall via the draft.
Safeties Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams are both expected to be among the top prospects in the draft. Either player is versatile enough to start at safety and play slot corner if needed.
Otherwise, they could add multiple players in the defensive backfield. Expect L.A. to look at this position closely at next week’s NFL Combine.
Again, the Chargers should be fine at this position. They have defensive end Joey Bosa returning after a great rookie year.
However, edge Melvin Ingram is expected to hit the open market. He has a combined 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons, so Ingram could be in high demand on the open market. Will Los Angeles win a bidding-war for the pass rusher?
The Bolts are switching their defensive scheme to a 4-3 under Lynn and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. That means L.A. could still look to add a pass rushing end in free agency, even if they keep Ingram.
Either way, Ingram will have to change his position on the Chargers’ defense if he stays. Bosa will need another pass rusher opposite of him if the young end can continue developing.
As for other positions of need, the Chargers could fill voids at running back and receiver.
Backup running back Danny Woodhead is a free agent. He has also been injured, so the team could replace him. Starting running back Melvin Gordon needs a quicker back behind him.
Speaking of injuries, Keenan Allen has finished the last two seasons on injured reserve. When Allen is healthy, he is a legit No. 1 receiver. It remains to be seen if he can stay healthy. The Chargers would be smart to add another receiver for insurance. This will keep Rivers productive too.
Either way, any of these team needs could change depending on the Chargers’ next moves. They will have to decide which of their free agents are worth re-signing. Plus, they could cut some players to create additional salary cap space.
Regardless, it should be interesting to see how the Los Angeles Chargers address any of the above team needs during the NFL Combine and free agency.
[Featured Image by Andy Clayton-King/AP Images]