- Brandon Flowers, CB: Four years, $36.4MM. $18.1MM guaranteed.
- Orlando Franklin, G: Five years, $35.5MM. $15.5MM guaranteed.
- King Dunlap, T: Four years, $28MM. $8.5MM guaranteed.
- Stevie Johnson, WR: Three years, $10.5MM. $3.87MM guaranteed.
- Jacoby Jones, WR: Two years, $5.5MM. $1.6MM guaranteed.
- Jimmy Wilson, CB: Two years, $4.25MM. $1.25MM guaranteed.
- Patrick Robinson, CB: One year, $2MM. $1.25MM guaranteed.
- Joe Barksdale, T: One year, $1.095MM. $350K guaranteed. $1MM available via incentives.
- Mitch Unrein, DT: Two years, $1.9MM. $250K guaranteed.
- Ricardo Mathews, DE: One year, $920K. $155K guaranteed.
- Trevor Robinson, OL: Two years, $1.7MM. $150K guaranteed.
- Chris Hairston, T: One year, minimum salary. $25K guaranteed.
- Austin Pettis, WR: One year, minimum salary benefit.
Leading up to the start of free agency, it was reported that a reunion between cornerback Brandon Flowers and the Chargers was likely. About 48 hours before things got started on March 10th, an agreement was struck. The four-year deal, which pays Flowers a healthy $36.4MM with $18.1MM guaranteed, is slated to keep Flowers in San Diego through the 2018 season. In his first season with the Charger, Flowers finished as the league’s 15th-best CB among 108 qualifiers per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The 29-year-old, who ranked as PFR’s No. 22 free agent, started 14 games, accruing two interceptions in the process. After being released by the Chiefs last summer, Flowers signed on with San Diego on a one-year pact that netted him $3MM. He got himself a significant pay bump this time around.
The Chargers had significant problems on the offensive line in 2014 and they addressed that issue early on with the signing of Orlando Franklin. The 27-year-old Franklin has spent the first four years of his career with the Broncos, playing right tackle from 2011-13 before moving to left guard last season. Franklin excelled in his positional transition, finishing as the league’s 13th-best guard according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
While the O-Line struggled overall, King Dunlap was one of the brighter spots of that unit for San Diego. Way back in February, the Bolts signed him to a multi-year extension. Dunlap, 30, spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Eagles before signing with the Chargers in 2013. He has appeared in and started 27 regular-season games for the Bolts, emerging as their most dependable offensive lineman. Dunlap’s teammates named him San Diego’s Lineman of the Year in 2014 and Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated him the 23rd-best tackle in the league out of 84 qualifiers. That followed an even more impressive sixth overall ranking in 2013.
In March, Stevie Johnson narrowed down his list of suitors to two teams – the Chargers and Patriots. After taking some time to mull it over, the former Bills notable went with San Diego. Johnson, 28, spent the first six seasons of his NFL career with the Bills before being sent to San Francisco a year ago in a trade. While the Kentucky product didn’t make a real impact for the 49ers, he enjoyed some success in Buffalo, putting up three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2010 to 2012, and grabbing 23 touchdowns during that three-year stretch.
Another notable wide receiver, Jacoby Jones, will be joining the Bolts this year, after signing a two-year free agent deal. Jones, 30, returned kicks and punts for Baltimore in 2014, but his role on offense was significantly reduced — after being targeted 68 times and hauling in 37 passes in 2013, Jones received just 18 targets and caught nine passes in 2014. He also averaged 30.6 yards on 32 kickoff returns, and 9.2 yards on 30 punt returns. For what it’s worth, the Ravens say they’re confident that they can replicate Jones’ production on special teams. Jones, meanwhile, will aim to prove that he is more than just the product of a good system.
Jimmy Wilson, 28, spent the first four years of his career in Miami, appearing in 60 games as a Dolphin and intercepting four passes. He totaled just eight starts during his first three seasons before amassing a career-high 13 in 2014. Eight of those starts came at cornerback, while the other five were from the safety position. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) wasn’t impressed with Wilson’s work as a corner last year, ranking him 94th out of 108 qualifiers. However, the site rated him a far better 34th out of 87 safeties.
- Seyi Ajirotutu, WR
- Ronnie Brown, RB
- Jeromey Clary, G: Retired
- Dwight Freeney, LB
- Andrew Gachkar, LB
- Marcus Gilchrist, S
- Nick Hardwick, C: Retired
- David Johnson, TE
- Jarret Johnson, LB: Retired
- Doug Legursky, C
- Ryan Mathews, RB
- Mat McBriar, P
- Rich Ohrnberger, C
- Chad Rinehart, G: Released
- Eddie Royal, WR
- Willie Smith, T
- Reggie Walker, LB: Released
- Shareece Wright, CB
In February, the Chargers made it known that they wanted to retain Ryan Mathews. However, in March, we didn’t hear much about a possible reunion. Early on in the free agent process, Mathews paid a visit to the Eagles and the rest, as they say, is history. Considered an injury-prone player for the first three seasons of his career, Mathews finally stayed healthy and put it all together for the Chargers in 2013, rushing for a career-high 1,255 yards. He was unable to keep that run of good health going in 2014 though, playing just eight games for San Diego due to injuries. The former 12th overall pick can be one of the league’s best backs when he’s at 100%, but we haven’t seen much of that lately.
Eddie Royal caught 62 balls for 778 receiving yards with the Chargers last season and both marks were his best since his rookie season with the Broncos in 2008. The 29-year-old put himself on the map with his tremendous rookie performance in 2008 and became a focal point of the Bolts’ offense over the last two seasons. While the stats have come and gone for Royal since 2013 (no wide receiver really sees consistent targets in Philip Rivers‘ offense), he had proven himself to be a reliable option. Royal signed on with the Bears in the spring.
Before the start of free agency, the Chargers informed Dwight Freeney that they wouldn’t be pursuing another deal with him this offseason. Freeney didn’t rack up the same gaudy sacks totals with the Chargers that he did with Indianapolis as he posted just four total sacks from 2013-14. There’s evidence that he still has plenty of football left in him despite the unimpressive sack totals, but the Chargers felt that they wanted to move in a different direction. As of this writing, Freeney remains on the open market.
Even though he saw less than 400 snaps on the Chargers’ defense last season, Andrew Gachkar drew a significant amount of interest around the league since free agency began in March. The Vikings, Panthers, and Raiders all expressed interest in 26-year-old linebacker, who had spent his entire career in San Diego. While he started only five games in 2014, Gachkar was a key contributor on special teams, where he played on 217 snaps and posted 12 tackles. Ultimately, he got a two-year deal from Dallas.
Marcus Gilchrist was drafted by San Diego in the second round of the 2011 draft, and he started all 16 games for the club in each of the past two seasons. He fared poorly according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required) in 2014, ranking 72nd out of 87 eligible safeties. However, he graded out much better in 2013, finishing as the 20th-best safety out of 88. He has tallied five interceptions in his four-year career, so he has not been much of a playmaker despite his strong tackling abilities and mentally-sound play. The Chargers wanted to keep him, but they didn’t want him as bad as the Jets.
Longtime Chargers offensive lineman Jeromey Clary announced his retirement shortly after the New Year. Clary, who spent the 2014 season on the team’s reserve/PUP list after undergoing hip surgery, said that he had been planning on retirement for a long time. Although he was a sixh-round pick, Clary soon became a mainstay in San Diego’s lineup, starting 93 of the 103 games he played for the team during his career, primarily at right tackle.
Nick Hardwick, 33, served as San Diego’s starting center ever since being selected by the Chargers in the third round of the 2004 draft, the same year the team added Phillip Rivers. Even though Rivers continues to be the team’s franchise QB, Hardwick decided to call it a career in February. This past season, a neck injury forced Hardwick to the injured reserve list after Week 1, wiping out a streak of 67 consecutive starts. Considering he had already mulled the possibility of retiring a year ago, and had endured a neck injury in the past, the news did not come as a huge surprise. Hardwick’s contract also expired this winter, so the Chargers aren’t carrying any cap hit on their books for him in 2015.
Chad Rinehart regressed significantly last year after a decent initial campaign in San Diego, ranking as the fifth-worst guard Pro Football Focus (subscription required) measured. In March, San Diego decided that it wouldn’t give Rinehart a third year in powder blue. San Diego saved $3.25MM in cap room but incured a dead-money penalty of $1MM by cutting him.
- Acquired a 2015 first-round pick (No. 15; RB Melvin Gordon) from the 49ers in exchange for a 2015 first-round pick (No. 17; DL Arik Armstead), a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 117; TE Blake Bell), and a 2016 fifth-round pick.
Extensions and restructures:
Corey Liuget, who turned 25 in March, has been a key contributor at defensive end for the Chargers since being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. The former 18th overall pick has started 61 regular season contests for the club in his four seasons, including all 16 games in each of the last three years. In 2014, Liuget notched a career-high 57 tackles and recorded 4.5 sacks to go along with a pair of forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In June, the Chargers made Liuget a rich man and locked him down through 2020.
- 1-15: Melvin Gordon, RB (Wisconsin): Signed
- 2-48: Denzel Perryman, ILB (Miami): Signed
- 3-83: Craig Mager, CB (Texas State): Signed
- 5-153: Kyle Emanuel, OLB (North Dakota State): Signed
- 6-192: Darius Philon, DL (Arkansas): Signed
Melvin Gordon was widely viewed as the best running back in the 2015 class and many believed that there was a significant dropoff between him and the next one down on the board. That’s why the Chargers took no chances and traded up from No. 17 to grab the Wisconsin star. Gordon gained 2,587 yards on the ground last season, the second-most in FBS history behind the 2,628 yards put up by an Oklahoma State tailback by the name of Barry Sanders.
- Hired former Falcons DC Mike Nolan as linebackers coach.
- Learned TE Antonio Gates would be suspended four games (performance-enhancing substances).
- Exercised 2016 fifth-year option for LB Melvin Ingram ($7.751MM).
- Signed nine players to reserve/futures contracts.
- Signed 21 undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.
On July 2nd a rash of NFL suspensions came down and none were more surprising that the four-game suspension levied upon Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, who popped positive for PEDs. Gates, the Chargers‘ all-time leader in catches, will now cede the starting tight end job to understudy Ladarius Green, someone who many feel is a future star.
Top 10 cap hits for 2015:
- Philip Rivers, QB: $17,416,668
- Eric Weddle, S: $10,100,000
- Antonio Gates, TE: $9,762,500
- Corey Liuget, DT: $7,977,000
- Donald Butler, LB: $5,480,000
- Malcom Floyd, WR: $4,716,668
- Orlando Franklin, G: $4,400,000
- Mike Scifres, P: $4,347,500
- Brandon Flowers, CB: $4,250,000
- King Dunlap, LT: $4,125,000
In recent years, the Chargers have been a good but not great team that has yet to really solidify their status as championship contenders. Now, with several notable names leaving Denver this offseason and uncertainty in both Oakland and Kansas City, the Bolts could be in position to win the AFC West for the first time since 2009.