Chargers Rumors

Chargers Re-Sign DB Jaylen Watkins

The Chargers are re-signing defensive back Jaylen Watkins to a one-year deal, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

Watkins, who can play both cornerback and safety, had signed with the Chargers last Spring, but went down with a torn ACL in Los Angeles’ second preseason game that ended his season. Rapoport notes in his tweet that Watkins was having a “very promising preseason” before getting hurt. He was originally drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round back in 2014.

The Florida product spent most of the next four years in Philadelphia, and was a part of the team that won Super Bowl LII. For his career, Watkins has tallied 56 tackles and eight passes defended, and was a major part of the Eagles’ secondary in 2016 and 2017, starting games each year. The Chargers already have a very talented secondary, so he’ll likely be little more than depth assuming he makes the team. Watkins is also the older half-brother of Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

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Charges Decline DT Corey Liuget’s Option

The Chargers have declined their 2019 option on defensive tackle Corey Liuget, the club announced tonight. However, Los Angeles also indicated it would be open to re-signing Liuget at a reduced rate.

Liuget, 28, agreed to a reworked contract in advance of the 2018 campaign that changed his 2019 season to an option year. Under the terms of that deal, Liuget was scheduled to collect a $4MM roster bonus on March 15. Instead, Liuget will now hit the free agent market two days earlier on March 13. Because the Chargers opted not to exercise his option (and didn’t outright release him), Liuget will still factor into the NFL’s compensatory pick calculations.

Had the Chargers picked up Liuget’s option, he would’ve been under contract in 2019 with a base salary of $4MM. That total, plus his $4MM roster bonus and $1.5MM of prorated bonus money would’ve given him a cap charge of $9.5MM. Los Angeles likely viewed that as an untenable figure given that Liguet played in only six games a year ago.

Liguet missed the first four games of the 2018 season after being handed a four-game performance enhancing-drug suspension. That ban essentially forced Liuget to accept his aforementioned pay cut, and ensured he didn’t appear in a game until Week 5. After coming back, Liuget five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks while earning a 66.9 grade from Pro Football Focus, a mark that would have ranked him as a middling defensive tackle if he had enough snaps to qualify.

The Chargers will now have now have a vacancy along the interior of their defensive line, especially given that fellow defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Darius Philon, and Damion Square are all free agents. Liuget, meanwhile, will join a free agent class that includes not only those fellow 2018 Chargers, but options such as Grady Jarrett, Sheldon Richardson, and Ndamukong Suh.

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Colts’ Matt Slauson Announces Retirement

Colts guard Matt Slauson is hanging ’em up. On Wednesday, the veteran took to Instagram to announce his retirement from the NFL. 

It has been ten amazing years,” Slauson wrote. “Four organizations and countless friendships. What an amazing dream this has all been. Thanks to all my teammates who have gone into battle with me, the group of coaches that have made me better on and off the field, the fans that were there no matter what, and especially my wife and kids who supported me through it all. It has been a very difficult decision but we are excited for what the next chapter holds.”

Over the course of nine seasons, Slauson suited up for the Jets, Bears, Chargers, and Colts. Last year, he appeared in five games – all starts – for Indianapolis. His season ended in October when he suffered a scary back injury.

Somehow, even without Slauson, the Colts’ offensive line was exceptional in 2018. The Colts went five straight games in the fall without allowing Andrew Luck to get sacked even once. The streak lasted until Week 12 when Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake got to the QB.

The Colts signed Slauson to a one-year, $3MM deal last offseason. He moved into their starting lineup opposite first-rounder Quenton Nelson and played well: both guards graded as top-30 players, in the view of Pro Football Focus, through the first five games of the year.

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Cardinals Claim Tanner Vallejo Off Waivers

Tanner Vallejo has found a new team. After being waived by the Browns yesterday, the linebacker has been claimed by the Cardinals (via the team’s website).

While the 24-year-old has been waived twice over past five months, there were still plenty of teams lining up to make a claim. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Vikings, and Chargers also made an attempt to claim Vallejo off waivers. Thanks to Arizona’s league-worst 3-13 record, they got first dibs on the player.

The Boise State product was selected by the Bills in the sixth-round of the 2017 draft, and he proceeded to appear in 15 games as a rookie. Vallejo was waived by Buffalo prior to this past season before landing on the Browns. In fact, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo points out (via Twitter) that the Cardinals made an unsuccessful claim on the linebacker at that time, so their interest in the linebacker isn’t anything new.

Vallejo ended up being relatively productive in Cleveland, compiling 27 tackles and one forced fumble in 13 games (one start). He ultimately finished the season on IR due to a hamstring injury. The Cardinals will now pick up the two years remaining on his rookie contract.

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Melvin Gordon To Wait On Le’Veon Bell Deal

Two of Melvin Gordon‘s peers reset the stagnant running back market in 2018, but the Chargers back will wait to see what happens with a unique free agent before entering into extension talks with his own team.

By virtue of hitting the open market, Le’Veon Bell may land a deal which could conceivably surpass those of Todd Gurley and David Johnson. Or Bell’s workload and injury history compared to those two may prevent his deal from breaking records.

Either way, the running back market will look different after the soon-to-be ex-Steelers back signs his long-sought-after contract. And Gordon, going into his fifth season, will not commit to a Chargers long-term pact until this happens.

I’m waiting. I’m sitting back waiting, waiting on Bell,” Gordon said during an appearance on NFL Media’s Around The NFL podcast (via the Orange County Register). “I’m glad it’s changing because we (running backs) were getting devalued for a little bit. But me, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, I can go down a whole list, Bell, you name it, ‘Zeke,’ just game-changers, Alvin Kamara, all those guys.”

Entering the 2019 offseason, the running back market is vastly improved from where it rested the previous few years. After Adrian Peterson‘s contract came off the Vikings’ books, LeSean McCoy‘s $8MM-per-year deal led the way, before Devonta Freeman‘s $8.25MM-AAV accord — a lower percentage of the cap when the Falcons back signed, compared to McCoy’s pact — raised it. Gurley pushed that to $14.38MM per year, with Johnson settling in at $13MM.

With no other backs signing for between the new top tier (Gurley and Johnson) and the second tier (topped by McCoy and Freeman’s contracts) since last year, a sizable gulf exists. Averaging a career-high 114.6 yards from scrimmage per game last season, Gordon seemingly would be in line to land a deal in between the Gurley-Freeman gap. Bell may help determine what Gordon’s next deal’s numbers look like, with Ezekiel Elliott surely monitoring the proceedings closely as well.

Like Bell, Gordon’s injury history (December IR trips in each of his first two seasons and four missed games in 2018) may come into play, only the latter likely will not have the luxury of hitting the market. The Chargers have Gordon locked down via team-friendly $5.61MM fifth-year option next season.

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Chargers’ Tyrell Williams: I’m A No. 1 WR

Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams is set to hit free agency in March. Based on his own self-evaluation, it sounds like he’ll be looking to make big bucks on the open market. 

I definitely feel like I’m a No. 1 receiver,” Williams said while exiting the Chargers’ facility earlier this month (via Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com). “So I want to make sure that I clean up all of the little things in route running and blocking, to make sure I solidify myself as a No. 1.

Frankly speaking, Williams did not put up WR1 numbers in 2018 – he finished out with 41 catches for 653 yards and five touchdowns. However, he did show serious promise in 2016 when he caught 69 passes for 1,059 yards and seven scores as an NFL sophomore.

The Chargers, meanwhile, are interested in a new deal, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll be close on terms.

This past year, his game had already been solid, and he kind of took it to the next level this year,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. “He’s certainly earned his second contract. Those are discussions we have to have, but I just don’t have hard answers at this point in the offseason.”

The WR market at large will dictate Williams’ asking price. In the 2017 offseason, wide receivers like Terrelle Pryor were met with disappointment in free agency. But, last year, players like Sammy Watkins and Paul Richardson found free agent riches. Williams is not expected to approach Watkins’ $16MM AAV, but he could be in line for a solid multi-year payday.

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Philip Rivers Eyes Several More Seasons

The Chargers have not made much of an effort to target Philip Rivers‘ heir apparent yet. Because the plan still appears to be a semi-long-term future with their current starter. Extension talks between the Bolts and their 37-year-old quarterback are set to commence. Rivers confirmed no such discussions have unfolded yet, but going through his 15th season did not change his mindset to avoid retirement for a while. The 2004 first-round pick gave the “year-by-year” answer during a radio interview with San Diego’s XTRA 1360 (via Pro Football Talk) before adding he believes he has a “handful” of seasons left. In the final year of his latest contract, Rivers is due an $11MM base salary and $5MM roster bonus in 2019. A $23MM cap charge is attached to this deal, and another re-up would bring that down. Los Angeles is projected to hold middle-of-the-pack cap space ($25MM-plus).

Here is the latest from the West divisions, moving to one of the Bolts’ top rivals:

Chargers To Target Linebackers

  • The Chargers struggled to stop the run all season long and especially in their playoff loss to the Patriots, and Chargers GM Tom Telesco said at his end of year press conference that linebacker will be a priority for them this offseason, according to Sam Fortier of The Athletic. The Chargers suffered a rash of injuries to their linebacking corp this season, with starters Kyzir White, Denzel Perryman, and Jatavis Brown all suffering serious injuries. The Chargers pick 28th in this April’s draft, and very well could target a linebacker with their first pick.

Chargers Open To Antonio Gates Return

Last year, the Chargers were ready to move on from Antonio Gates and turn the keys over to rising star Hunter Henry. However, when a torn ACL sidelined Henry, the Bolts reverted to Gates with a new deal in September. Will he come back for yet another season? 

My heart says, yeah, he’ll be back next year,” Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said, via Sam Fortier of The Athletic. “But you put your GM hat on, and you look at what’s the role, where are resources are with the cap. We’ll come to that conclusion a lot quicker than we did last year.”

It’s hard to see Gates demanding much in the way of salary given his decline in usage and performance. Last year, even without Henry in his way, Gates finished out with just 28 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Those are respectable numbers for your average tight end, but they were some of the lowest totals of Gates’ career.

Last year, Gates carried a $2.5MM charge against the Chargers’ cap. A similar deal could probably be struck, though the Bolts may want to keep the guaranteed base salary to a minimum in order to preserve their flexibility in the first couple of waves of free agency.

For his part, Gates wants to return. He’s also confident in his abilities, despite his advanced age.

The teams we played think I can still can play if they’re still doubling me,” Gates said.

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Chargers Plan To Extend Philip Rivers

The Chargers plan to extend the contract of quarterback Philip Rivers, who is entering the final year of his deal, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com.

“I can tell you he’s not going anywhere, so he’s going to be here,” Los Angeles general manager Tom Telesco said. “We’ll talk at the right point, as far as the moves we need to make in the offseason, the resources we have and how it all fits in. But yeah, he’s not going anywhere.”

Rivers, 37, sounded amenable to an extension, as well. Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Rivers is due an $11MM base salary and $5MM roster bonus in 2019, and has a cap charge of $23MM. His current pact, which he inked in 2015, contains an average annual vale of $20.812MM. That figure ranked fourth among quarterbacks at the time of signing, but now sits at just 14th among signal-callers.

Last year, Rivers started all 16 games for the 13th consecutive season, and posted 4,308 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His adjusted net yards per attempt (7.79) was the third-highest average in the league and Rivers’ best mark since 2009, while he finished seventh in Total QBR.