On March 14, multiple NFL players will become free agents and be available to (officially) sign for other franchises. Two days before – March 12 – teams can start to negotiate with unrestricted free agents, but no contract can be signed between the two dates.
If a player is a restricted free agent, they have accumulated just three seasons in the league. These players can be ‘tendered’, a predetermined one year contract offer. Or, the club can agree a longer term deal, the same as unrestricted. The third type – an exclusive rights free agent. The player’s contract is expiring before they have played three seasons. If a team offers them a fixed deal, a price decided by the NFL, they have to accept. Again, a one year deal. If not, they are free to sign for another team after April 20. Simple.
For the Los Angeles Chargers, they have 25 players with expiring contracts. We’ll start with the offense where they have 15, and whether they should ‘Keep’ or ‘Sweep’. Depending what source you use, will depend how much they will tell you the Chargers have in cap space. Per Spotrac, the team will have just over $30mil to resign their own, and spend on others.
WR Tyrell Williams (RFA)
The third year wide receiver’s season was a mixed bag, to say the least. At times, Williams suffered with drops, and looking like he didn’t want to receive contact. Not good attributes to have. But maybe we should have expected a slight dip in performance after an impressive sophomore season. Having said that, three of his four touchdowns were 50 yards or more, displaying his down field threat. At 25, he still has time to develop and as a RFA, it shouldn’t cost the team too much to bring him back. I surprised to see the Chargers extend him to a multi-year deal, though.
TE Antonio Gates (UFA)
Earlier in the month, I wrote about Gates’ plans to stay in the NFL, here. From a personal point of view, seeing Gates in another uniform would be hard to take. On the football side, it still makes sense. Behind Hunter Henry, the Chargers don’t have too many options at the position. At the back end of the season, the future HoFer proved he could still play, in the absence of Henry. A one or two year deal feels right.
OG Kenny Wiggins (UFA)
I’ve gone back and forth on Wiggins, a lot. He did a sound job at guard in 2017, but isn’t the type of lineman you’d associate Lynn with. Even with the team picking Forest Lamp and Dan Feeney, in last years draft, I think they’ll look to invest some more along the line. Having an experienced player like Wiggins around could help. I don’t think he should start, but would be a more than capable backup to have.
QB Kellen Clemens (UFA)
Four years Clemens has managed to hang around for. He’s not going to be the heir to Philip Rivers, or the player you want throwing to your developing WRs, so bye, bye.
OL Matt Slauson (UFA)
If this was last off season, Wiggins would be going and Slauson staying. Los Angeles decided to move Slauson from center to left guard, to give Spencer Pulley a chance a center. A move the Chargers probably wouldn’t do again given the opportunity. Slauson struggled at guard, before his season ended after 7 games with a torn bicep. Pulley started well, but regressed as the year went on. I would be tempted to move the veteran back, however, it’s likely that a fresh start somewhere else would be best for him and the team.
OL Michael Schofield (UFA), Michael Ola (UFA), Kenny Wiggins (UFA)
Schofield played admirably, when filling in for Joe Barksdale at right tackle. Unfortunately, for himself and Barksdale, I believe the Chargers will take a look at Forest Lamp at that position and opportunities will be limited. Ola was signed as cover during the season and there are very few reasons to keep him around. Wiggins was placed on the ‘Reserve/non-football illness’ list during the ’17 season. Could be brought back for depth, but I’d imagine Lynn would want someone with more athletic ability for his line.
TEs Sean McGrath (RFA), Jeff Cumberland (UFA), Asante Cleveland (RFA)
A big reason why I said the team lacks depth at TE, is these three names. All of them are almost exclusively blocking TEs, and not fantastic ones, at that. It’s a position they have to invest in through the NFL Draft, or free agency.
WRs Geremy Davis (RFA), Isaiah Burse (RFA)
These two receivers have been in the Chargers system for two year, now. Neither have made a huge impact of note. At least on paper, the team’s receiving core looks to be set, so it might be worth exploring some new ‘young’ developmental players.
RB Andre Williams (RFA) , Branden Oliver (UFA)
I like Oliver, but I also like players who can stay on the field. Health has always been his problem but now it’s become more than that. The RB was a healthy scratch for multiple games in 2017, so it’s hard to see him coming back. Williams was the ‘back’ who past Oliver on the depth chart. That says more about Oliver, than it does Williams. The Chargers could use another ‘back’ to complement Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, because neither of these two are that.
There is still some debate to be had over a few players, especially offensive lineman. But the Chargers don’t have too much money available, and need to be careful.
Come back tomorrow, where I’ll dig into the defensive and special teams free agents.
–Thomas Herd is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @chargers_uk.