Now I fully expect both Hunter Henry and Derek Watt to be back in a Powder Blue uniform next season, but in the event they leave, the Bolts will need to replace them. Hunter Henry is a top-5 Tight-End when healthy and I expect him to be back under either the Franchise Tag or Transition Tag. Fullbacks don’t get the same love, but Derek Watt is more than just a fullback to this team. He lead the league in special teams tackles and plays personal protector on punts as well as wing in field goals. The Chargers could look for depth at Tight End, but they could also stick with Virgil Green and bring back Sean Culkin from injury. Neither player offers much in the passing game, so a compliment to Henry isn’t out of the question. Here is a list of free agents:
- Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins
- Vance McDonald – Pittsburgh Steelers
- Eric Ebron – Indianpolis Colts
- Tyler Eifert – Cincinatti Bengals
- Charles Clay – Arizona Cardinals
- Darren Fells – Houston Texans
- Lance Kendricks – Los Angelas Chargers
- Luke Willson – Seattle Seahawks
- Nick O’Leary – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Blake Jarwin – Dallas Cowboys
- Jacob Hollister – Seattle Seahawks
- Austin Hooper – Atlanta Falcons
- Anthony Sherman – Kansas City Chiefs
- Dan Vitale – Green Bay Packers
- Zach Line – New Orleans Saints (Retired)
- Kyle Juszczyk – San Francisco 49ers (likely to be cut)
Tyler Eifert has underwhelmed and dealt with injuries in Cincinnati. He has had the red headed devil throwing to him most of his career, so you kind of have to feel bad for him. He was basically replaced by C.J. Uzomah, but Eifert could maybe have a re-emergence with a change in teams. He was the top tight end in his draft class in 2013 and at 29 years old, he still has some productive years ahead of him. While maybe not a huge need, Eifert could be a great relief to Henry, similar to what Cameron Brate is to O.J. Howard. He is the under-the-radar type player Telesco could find on a cheap deal. Replacing Virgil Green isn’t a bad idea and Eifert can actually catch the ball.
The 2014 John Mackey Award winner and All-American is another under-the-radar signing. O’Leary isn’t going to wow anyone with stats, but he is a high-caliber run blocker that could also replace Virgil Green. He has the power to drive defenders back in the run game with decent technique. O’Leary is strong and had the highest Pass-Blocking grade of all Tight-ends in the league with a 87.5 grade from PFF. I think he could also be flexible enough to be used as a fullback and a contributor in special teams.
I through Kyle in just for fun. He isn’t a free agent, but he is a cut candidate due to his $7M cap hit. I think it more likely that he re-structures his contract and stays in San Francisco. Kyle is an all-around athlete. He is what the fullback position is turning into. Strong, athletic blockers who can catch passes out of the backfield and make special team units better. The Harvard player has at least 30 catches each of the past 4 years and helped pave the way for the 49ers strong run game. His ability to open up holes massively helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl last season. Kyle is a ball player, and while the fullback position may be dying out, players like Kyle are fun to watch and a extremely valuable assets to the run game.
Ideal Scenario: Chargers sign Hunter Henry, Sean Culkin and Derek Watt. Kyle Juszczyk replacing Watt on a 2-3 year deal would bolster the run game and take pressure off a rookie signal caller. Over-paying for an All-Pro Fullback to help implement a run first scheme, while bringing a young signal caller onboard is a strategy that works. Ask Russell Wilson, Jared Goff, Dan Prescott and even Patrick Mahomes who all benefited from a strong run game early in their careers.