Chargers Rumors

Opinion: Bolts Should Keep Travis Benjamin

  • Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin is scheduled to carry a $7MM cap charge this year and the Bolts could save $4.5MM by cutting him with just $2.5MM in dead money. That may be tempting for L.A., but Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com feels that he is worth the cost. Benjamin has scored nine touchdowns for the Chargers since coming on board in 2016 and his speed opens things up in the short/medium range for Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, and Hunter Henry. Williams argues that Benjamin’s salary – which puts him No. 29 amongst WRs at the moment – is something the Bolts could live with. That’s reasonable, but it stands to reason that the Chargers could ask the veteran to accept a mild pay cut this offseason.

Colts Hire Nick Sirianni As OC

It’s official. The Colts have hired Chargers wide receivers coach Nick Sirianni as their new offensive coordinator, according to a team press release. Nick Sirianni (Vertical)

Before Josh McDaniels backed out of the Colts’ head coaching job, it appeared that the team would hire either former Seahawks play caller Darrell Bevell or Raiders quarterbacks coach Jake Peetz as OC. New head coach Frank Reich inherited several assistants from McDaniels’ would-be staff, but he had some say in this choice and the team landed on Sirianni as his right-hand man on offense.

Reich and Sirianni spent multiple seasons together in San Diego. Reich was the Bolts’ quarterbacks coach in 2013 before graduating to offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015. Sirianni was an offensive quality control coach in ’13 before advancing to QB coach when Reich was promoted.

Reich did not have the opportunity to call plays when he worked under Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, so it stands to reason that he will call the plays in Indianapolis. Still, this is a big step up for the 36-year-old Sirianni.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Finalize Staff

  • The Chargers have announced several new hires, including the addition of former Bills wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan in the same role. McGeoghan, who spent only one season in Buffalo, will replace Nick Sirianni, who is now the Colts’ offensive coordinator. He’ll get to work with a receiving corps that includes Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Travis Benjamin. Additionally, Los Angeles has hired Keith Burns (assistant special teams) and Addison Lynch (defensive quality control).

Colts Expected To Hire Nick Sirianni As OC?

After reports that the Colts were expected hire Chargers quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen for their vacant offensive coordinator role, ESPN’s Field Yates reports (Twitter link) that the team will in fact hire the Chargers wide receivers coach Nick Sirianni for the post. Nick Sirianni (Vertical)

The Colts requested permission to interview Sirianni on Sunday and moved fast to make him the team’s new offensive coordinator. Yates noted in a followup tweet that Sirianni is highly thought of with an extremely sharp mind and has the makings of a future NFL head coach.

The confusion is only par for the course for this Colts offseason. The team expected to hire Josh McDaniels as its new head coach following Super Bowl LII, but the Patriots offensive coordinator backed out at the last minute after several assistants had already signed contracts. The Colts then swooped in for Frank Reich, the Eagles offensive coordinator, and signed him to a deal on Sunday.

Sirianni received his first job in the NFL as an offensive quality control coach with the Chiefs in 2009. He served in that position until being named the team’s receivers coach in 2012. In 2010, he worked with the team’s quarterbacks and helped Matt Cassel earn his lone Pro Bowl selection. He became the Chargers quarterbacks coach in 2014 and transitioned to receivers coach in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Hire Rip Scherer

  • The Chargers have hired former UCLA assistant Rip Scherer as their new tight ends coach, reports Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Scherer will replace John McNulty, who recently left Los Angeles in order to become Rutgers’ offensive coordinator. Scherer, for his part, has a history of coaching quarterbacks in the NFL, and has done so with the Browns (2005-08) and Panthers (200-10). The rest of his coaching tenure has been spent in the NCAA, and he’s been a play-caller at stops such as Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, and Southern Miss.
  • D’Anton Lynn, the son of Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, will be hired as the Texans‘ assistant defensive backs coach, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. The younger Lynn has followed his father to each of his last three stops, serving as a defensive assistant in New York, Buffalo, and — most recently — Los Angeles. He’ll now work under Houston defensive backs coach Anthony Midget, whom himself was promoted from the assistant job to the full-time role earlier this offseason.

Updated 2018 NFL Draft Order

With the Super Bowl in the books, we now know the draft order for the entire first round of the 2018 draft. Here’s the rundown:

1. Cleveland Browns (0-16)

2. New York Giants (3-13)

3. Indianapolis Colts (4-12)

4. Cleveland Browns (via the 4-12 Houston Texans)

5. Denver Broncos (5-11)

6. New York Jets (5-11)

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

8. Chicago Bears (5-11)

T-9. Oakland Raiders (6-10)

T-9. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) (Note: The Raiders and 49ers have identical records and the same strength of schedule. The tie will be broken by a coin flip with the winner getting pick No. 9 and the other club receiving the No. 10 pick.)

11. Miami Dolphins (6-10)

12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)

13. Washington Redskins (7-9)

14. Green Bay Packers (7-9)

15. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

16. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

18. Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

19. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)

20. Detroit Lions (9-7)

21. Buffalo Bills (9-7)

22. Buffalo Bills (via the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs)

23. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)

24. Carolina Panthers (11-5)

25. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

26. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

30. Minnesota Vikings (13-3)

31. New England Patriots (13-3)

32. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

Top 3 Offseason Needs: Los Angeles Chargers

In advance of March 14, the start of free agency in the NFL, Pro Football Rumors will detail each team’s three most glaring roster issues. We’ll continue this year’s series with the Los Angeles Chargers, who narrowly missed out on a postseason berth after finishing with a 9-7 record.

Depth Chart (via Roster Resource)

Pending Free Agents:

Top 10 Cap Hits for 2018:

  1. Philip Rivers, QB: $22,000,000
  2. Russell Okung, T: $15,000,000
  3. Melvin Ingram, DE: $13,875,000
  4. Keenan Allen, WR: $9,650,000
  5. Corey Liuget, DT: $9,500,000
  6. Jason Verrett, CB: $8,526,000
  7. Joey Bosa, DE: $7,056,456
  8. Travis Benjamin, WR: $7,000,000
  9. Joe Barksdale, T: $5,800,000
  10. Brandon Mebane, DT: $5,500,000

Other:

  • Projected cap space (via Over the Cap): $24,105,510
  • 17th pick in draft
  • Must exercise or decline 2019 fifth-year option for RB Melvin Gordon

Three Needs:

1) Address the run defense: In today’s NFL, stopping the pass is far more important than halting the run, and the Chargers boast one of the best secondaries in the league. Fielding perhaps the most elite cornerback trio (Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, Desmond King) in the NFL, plus two excellent safeties in Jahleel Addae and Tre Boston, Los Angeles ranked third in passing touchdowns allowed, fourth in passer rating allowed, sixth in yards per attempt allowed, and ninth in pass defense DVOA.

But while teams should place more of an emphasis on pass defense, they can’t completely fail to stop opposing rushing attacks, which is essentially what the Chargers did in 2017. Los Angeles finished 29th in rush defense DVOA, 31st in yards allowed, and dead last in yards per attempt allowed. As such, much of the focus of the Chargers’ offseason should be on upgrading their interior defensive line and their linebacking unit.

Mostly due to injuries, Los Angeles used a four-man rotation at inside linebacker a season ago, as Jatavis Brown, Hayes Pullard, Denzel Perryman, and Korey Toomer all saw at least 25% playtime. The Chargers seemingly don’t view Brown as a full-time starter (based on his prior usage), Pullard was stretched as a fill-in last year, and Toomer hasn’t been able to find a place on the field despite his record of production (and is now a free agent). Perryman, then, is the only LA ‘backer who figures to return as a locked-in starter in 2018, meaning the club can certainly search for a complement during free agency or via the draft.Navorro bowman (vertical)

Luckily for the Chargers, the free agent linebacker class is relatively strong, so they should be able to find a solution when the market opens in March. Zach Brown, Tahir Whitehead, and NaVorro Bowman all ranked among Pro Football Focus‘ top 20 linebackers in run grade, but Bowman might be the best fit of the three. Not only is Bowman probably the best all-around linebacker of the group (he was the only member earn a mark greater than 50 in PFF’s coverage grades), but he’s also the oldest of the triumvirate. Given Los Angeles’ salary cap situation, the team may look for a bargain signing, and Bowman’s age could make him a bit cheaper. Brown, for what it’s worth, could be hunting for a top-tier LB contract.

Even more cost-effective linebackers than Bowman will be available, including Preston Brown (who’s played in 64 consecutive games with the Bills to begin his career) and Paul Posluszny, who could leave Jacksonville after seven seasons thanks to the strength of the Jaguars’ front seven. If the Chargers want to go even further towards the bottom of the barrel, they could target Kevin Minter or Gerald Hodges, each of whom failed to get on the field with the Bengals and Saints, respectively, in 2017. Both have had up-and-down careers, but each is only 27 years old and posted a solid campaign as recently as 2016.

Los Angeles will likely need to dip into free agency to add another defensive lineman, as well. Brandon Mebane has been a high-quality signing since joining the Chargers in 2016, but he’s now entering his age-33 season. Former first-round pick Corey Liuget was relatively effective in limited snaps last year, but Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com recently listed Liuget as a possible release candidate (LA would ave $6.5MM by cutting him).Dontari Poe (Vertical)

While veterans such as Haloti Ngata or Kyle Williams could theoretically be effective for the Chargers, I don’t think defensive coordinator Gus Bradley wants his unit to get older this offseason. Therefore, let’s focus on free agents who are age-28 or younger. Dontari Poe will likely be looking for a multi-year pact after inking only a one-year deal with the Falcons last year, so Los Angeles could either pay up for the 6’3″, 350-pounder, or wait to see if his market crashes again. Bennie Logan could also be of interest (although the Redskins look like they’ll target him), while the Panthers don’t appear willing to re-sign Star Lotulelei at his likely asking price. The Eagles’ Beau Allen and the Ravens’ Brent Urban could also be in consideration for the Chargers over the next several weeks.

Adding a youthful defensive tackle in the draft is also on the table, and both Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.com and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com recently mocked Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne to the Chargers. One NFL executive told Zierlein that Payne is a “thick and strong” athlete who will likely end up as a better pro than fellow Crimson Tide alum A’Shawn Robinson. In his ESPN.com piece, Williams tossed out Vita Vea (Washington) and Harrison Phillips (Stanford) as options for Los Angeles.

2) Find Philip Rivers‘ successor: The great thing about the Chargers’ roster is that it doesn’t have pressing holes at vital positions. Los Angeles is well-stocked at wide receiver, edge rusher, and cornerback, arguably the most important positions aside from quarterback in the NFL. While the club has needs at linebacker, defensive tackle, interior offensive line, and possibly safety if Tre Boston leaves via free agency, it can find solutions at those positions on the cheap, either in the later stages of free agency or in the middle rounds of the draft.Philip Rivers

Given that they don’t necessarily need to land an impact player at a critical position this offseason, the Chargers could instead use their first-round pick on a quarterback. That’s not to imply Rivers is no longer a successful signal-caller. In 2017, Rivers ranked second in Football Outsiders‘ DYAR, fourth in FO’s DVOA, fourth in adjusted net yards per pass attempt, eighth in passer rating, and eighth in PFF’s 2018 Quarterback Annual, which noted Rivers can still hit intermediate passes and evade pressure with regularity.

But not every quarterback can keep up their statistical performance into their late-30s. Tom Brady and his TB12 method is an outlier, as most signal-callers are fading or finished by the time they reach Rivers’ age. Rivers will turn 37 years old during the 2018 campaign: since the merger in 1970, only 50 quarterbacks age-37 or older that have attempted at least 300 passes in a single season. Raise that age threshold to 38 years old, and the number of starting-caliber seasons drops to 29. No matter how well Rivers is currently playing, the odds are that his production will slip in the coming year or two — and it could happen quickly.Read more

2018 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Jay Ajayi (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.908MM in 2018. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Trent Brown, T; Eli Harold, LB

Bears: Adrian Amos, S

Bengals: Tyler Kroft, TE; Josh Shaw, DB

Bills: John Miller, G

Broncos: Max Garcia, G; Trevor Siemian, QB

Browns: Duke Johnson, RB

Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB

Cardinals: David Johnson, RB; J.J. Nelson, WR

Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB

Chiefs: Chris Conley, WR; Steven Nelson, CB

Colts: Henry Anderson, DE; Mark Glowinski, G; Denzelle Good, OL

Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, RB; Jordan Hicks, LB

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT

Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL

Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB

Packers: Jake Ryan, LB

Panthers: Daryl Williams, T

Patriots: Trey Flowers, DE; Shaq Mason, G

Raiders: Clive Walford, TE

Rams: Jamon Brown, G

Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB

Redskins: T.J. Clemmings, OL; Jamison Crowder, WR

Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT

Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Steelers: Jesse James, TE

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, WR; Danielle Hunter, DE

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texas A&M Eyeing Bolts Assistant

  • Texas A&M is attempting to hire Chargers assistant defensive line coach Eric Henderson, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He spent his first season with the Chargers last season under Gus Bradley. The former NFL defensive lineman and New Orleans native, though, is viewed as a plus recruiter — particularly in the south — and spent three seasons with Oklahoma State and in 2016 coached Texas-San Antonio’s defensive linemen.

Updated 2018 NFL Draft Order

With the conference championship games in the books, we now know the draft order for 30 of the first round’s 32 picks. Here’s the rundown:

1. Cleveland Browns (0-16)

2. New York Giants (3-13)

3. Indianapolis Colts (4-12)

4. Cleveland Browns (via the 4-12 Houston Texans)

5. Denver Broncos (5-11)

6. New York Jets (5-11)

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

8. Chicago Bears (5-11)

T-9. Oakland Raiders (6-10)

T-9. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) (Note: The Raiders and 49ers have identical records and the same strength of schedule. The tie will be broken by a coin flip with the winner getting pick No. 9 and the other club receiving the No. 10 pick.)

11. Miami Dolphins (6-10)

12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)

13. Washington Redskins (7-9)

14. Green Bay Packers (7-9)

15. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

16. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

18. Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

19. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)

20. Detroit Lions (9-7)

21. Buffalo Bills (9-7)

22. Buffalo Bills (via the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs)

23. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)

24. Carolina Panthers (11-5)

25. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

26. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

30. Minnesota Vikings (13-3)

31. (New England Patriots (13-3) or Philadelphia Eagles (13-3))

32. (New England Patriots (13-3) or Philadelphia Eagles (13-3))