The Chargers made strides in their second year in Los Angeles, advancing to the playoffs where they knocked off the Ravens in the first round.
But the Chargers, who went 12-4, saw their season end the next week when getting dominated, again, by the New England Patriots. It was such an underwhelming performance by the Chargers that it’s clear they need upgrades on both sides of the line.
The Chargers can look at the defensive tackle spot as they pick-and-choose which free agents to let flee and what, if any, to retain.
Veteran Brandon Mebane, Damion Square and Darius Philon were all key members of the team’s rotation on the interior line. Mebane, who contributions were limited because of missing time with family issues, might have reached the end of the line — with Chargers, anyway. Square and Philon are more attractive because of their ages and their production this past season.
Free safety Adrian Phillips, a Pro Bowl selection as a special-teams player, will draw plenty of attention if dipping his toe in the free-agent waters. Same goes for linebacker Denzel Perryman, the team’s best run-stopper. Although Perryman’s health is seemingly a constant concern, which could have the Chargers looking elsewhere or make him more affordable to keep.
Tight end Antonio Gates, 39, said he wants to return but the Chargers have a solid replacement in Hunter Henry and Gates isn’t expected back. Another pass-catcher, Tyrell Williams, could be gone, too. Williams proved his value with his steady play and excelling in more critical roles when injuries hit the wide receivers.
The Chargers were manhandled in their loss to the Patriots, which could have them seeking to beef-up the offensive line. Right tackle Sam Tevi was OK, but not so good that the Chargers might consider other options. And right guard Dan Feeney, once thought of as a staple on the line, could have his position looked at with a discerning eye.
Of course if one or more of the defensive tackles exit, the Chargers need to turn their focus there. This could also be the offseason where the Chargers find a heir apparent to quarterback Philip Rivers, although after 15 seasons, there’s yet to be a drop off in his game.
The Chargers will likely pick through the free-agency bin at defensive tackle where some interesting candidates will be available: Sheldon Richardson (Minnesota), Kyle Williams (Buffalo) and Malcom Brown (New England).
It’s believed LA will make a strong push to keep Phillips, but if not Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Washington) and Tre Boston (Arizona), a one-time Charger, could have their tires kicked.
The Chargers, who hit gold last year in the draft with All-Pro safety Derwin James, will have the No. 28 overall pick this year. If LA has a large void to fill at defensive tackle, it should be able to find someone at this spot.
LA will have north of $20 million in available salary-cap space next season, which is below the league average for each team. But it could also create additional room by cutting underperforming wide receiver Travis Benjamin ($6.5 million) and strong safety Jahleel Addae ($6 million).
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