With a wild Friday, right before the start of the new league year, teams are making moves for what should be a very interesting free agency. For the first time, Tom Telesco has be in the headlines nearly every week. Usually very quiet and reserved, Telesco has been wheeling and dealing in a manner unseen before. Here are all the notable moves that Tom Telesco has made so far.
Making Moves Along the Coaching Staff
In February, Telesco helped to negotiate an extension for Head Coach Anthony Lynn. While not typical to extend a coach after a down season, extending Lynn breathes confidence and continuity for the teams focal leader. He then promoted Shane Steichan to Offensive Coordinator full time, the position he took over after the firing of Ken Whisenhunt. Steichan has been moving up the ranks in the Chargers organization since 2011. He has been groomed to take over the role and it will be interesting to see what his new offense looks like next season. Telesco then hired James Campen to Offensive Line Coach, an under the radar move for a team that needs leadership and guidance for the big heavies. The team also is moving Alfrado Roberts to Tight Ends, Mark Ridgley to Running Backs, Rip Scherer to Senior Assistant and Addison Lynch to Assistant Defensive Backs. The coaching moves are subtle, but impactful changes for the direction of the franchise.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers Move in Different Directions
After 16 long seasons, the Chargers and Philip Rivers mutually decided to part ways. While I don’t know how mutual this decision actually was, this signals the start of a new era and leaves plenty of uncertainty under center. Philip Rivers owns almost every statistical franchise record for the Bolts, but that doesn’t overcome the season he just had, even behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Philip has said he plans to continue to play, most likely in a Colts uniform next season, and every Charger fan wishes him the best of luck in his new location. Seeing him win a Super Bowl, even in a different jersey, would be bittersweet.
Player-for-Player Trade on the Offensive Line
I’ll give a 31-year-old, aging Left Tackle, with major injury concerns, for your 26-year-old, 5-time Pro-bowl Right Guard, who is just now entering his prime. Yeah, you read that right! Even more, Tom Telesco actually saves a bit of cap room as well. While the edges of this line has serious holes, the interior looks set for next season. Tom Telesco really won this trade, considering this could have easily been made with an additional draft pick as well. Russell Okung had doubts about the direction of the Chargers’ franchise and he was sent to a team that looks like its headed for a full rebuild. Trai Turner on the other hand comes to a team trending upward.
Rewarding a Former UDFA with a Well-Deserved Long-Term Contract.
Austin Ekeler is worth every penny and probably more than the 4-year, $24.5M contract he just signed. In 3 seasons splitting time with Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler has 22 total touchdowns. He has averaged 4.8 ypc in his career thus far, but where he really shines is in the passing game, where he nearly had 1,000 yards receiving last year. The signing foreshadows a Gordon exit. Ekeler looks primed to be the workhorse back next year, with some Justin Jackson sprinkled in here and there. Fans everywhere have been behind Ekeler since the beginning, especially during the Gordon holdout. Now he gets the opportunity to be the teams focal point full-time.
Making Moves Right Before the Start of Free Agency
One of the primary targets that Tom Telesco wants to keep around is Hunter Henry. He used the Franchise Tag on the young Tight End, but it remains to be seen if this is a try-out to stay healthy, or just to give additional time to come to a long-term contract. Either way, Henry is a young star and impacts the game when he’s on the field. Telesco then let go of two aging players whose play has declined. Linebacker Thomas Davis played nearly every snap last season, but he is a shell of his former self. Brandon Mebane’s cap number just wasn’t worth his production at nose tackle, even without another one on the roster. Lastly, Linebacker Denzel Perryman restructured his contract to stay on the team. The number didn’t change, but for him to reach the full $6M, he has to reach certain incentive to get there.
What Else Can We Expect in the Weeks to Come?
With Free Agency set to begin next week, the Chargers have a little over $50M in cap space, with many holes to be filled. While Trey Pipkins was drafted to eventually be the teams starting Left Tackle, some worry that he is not yet ready. The team could look for a short term answer in free agency. The other tackle position is a larger hole, likely to be addressed soon, but will it be in free agency or in the draft? Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are pencilled in as the starting receivers, but behind them, the depth chart is wide open. The team could find a 3rd running back, preferably with some power, likely in the later rounds of the draft.
On defense, there is a glaring hole at Nose Tackle now that Mebane is gone. This will likely be addressed in Free Agency, either with the return of Damien Square or another big time free agent. Linebacker depth might be an issue, as well as depth behind Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram at Defensive End. Michael Davis was the team’s starting Cornerback last season, but there could be an upgrade coming. The only position that looks set without changes is at Safety. The biggest headline coming though is under center.
Tom Brady has been linked to the Chargers by analysts. Fans are split about the opportunity, but bringing in Brady won’t be cheap. Telesco doesn’t typically go after big names in free agency, but the possibility exists. It would look strange to see Brady in a new uniform, but no more strange then seeing Rivers in a new uniform. SoFi Stadium opens in a few short months, and having Brady under center would temporarily boost ticket sales. The team could opt for Tyrod Taylor, whom Telesco and Lynn have stood behind all year. Finally, there are 3 primary quarterbacks the Chargers could target in the draft.
Tua Tagovailoa is a legitiment target, with major injury concerns. He is the highest risk, highest reward player in this draft. Justin Herbert and Jordan Love have also been mocked to the Chargers at #6. If the Bolts do draft a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft, it will likely be one of these players. If Tom Brady does not come to the Chargers, then it is increasingly likely that they go Quarterback here. Furthering the QB Draft narrative, they may also be in for a blockbuster trade to get their guy. Time will tell, but there is still so much offseason left to go. It’s a good time to be a Charger fan though, thats for sure!