Chargers 2016 Offseason Preview

Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $27 million


Expected 2016 Cap Space: $31.6 million


Estimated Rookie Cap: $9.315 million

Roster Overview


Players Under Contract: 55
Pro Bowlers: 0
Unrestricted Free Agents: 17(8 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 3

Salary Cap Breakdown


Chargerss Offensive Spending

Chargers Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

With the offensive line such a mess for San Diego, allowing Joe Barksdale, about the only competent player they had last season, to leave would be a mistake. He outpriced himself in free agency last year so he might be agreeable to a deal in the $5 million per year range…Patrick Robinson played decently last year and was a good acquisition…I’d bring back Antonio Gates for another season if he wants to return. He can still play and it would be nice to see him end his career in San Diego.

Free Agents to Let Walk

The relationship between the Chargers and Eric Weddle completely broke down by years end and it seemed clear that he will be out…Ladarious Green has ability but he crawled to the finish line and I’d be afraid of paying him too much and only consider it if Gates does not return…Chris Hairston, Kendell Reyes, and Ricardo Mathews all played a large number of snaps for the team, none of which were really productive.

Contracts to Modify

Was one year of a healthy Melvin Ingram enough to consider an extension?  It might be worth the risk if the price is right…I would not rework the contracts of Philip Rivers and specifically Brandon Flowers for cap relief.

Players to Consider Releasing

Donald Butler has one of those rare contracts in a contract where there is a small window of time in which they can release him and save $2.6 million before the option proration kicks in at the start of the league year which makes it more difficult with the cap to release him. He played himself out of the rotation despite the contract so it would seem to be a no brainer to release him right after the Super Bowl…Paying $3.56 million for a punter seems like wasted resources, so expect Mike Scifres to be gone…Donald Brown was a head scratching decision when they signed him and it will be equally head scratching if they keep him. Cutting him saves $3.5 million.  Cutting Trevor Robinson saves $2.5 million.

Salary Cap Analytics by Bryce Johnston

The Chargers rank a little below average in terms of 2016 salary cap flexibility, but a little above average in terms of the absence of long-term salary cap commitments.  The team can leverage its relative lack of future cap commitments to add talent to the roster on somewhat back-loaded deals while still leaving itself in a reasonable long-term position.  Given the age of Philip Rivers, utilizing this ability to spend relatively aggressively may be more advisable than a patience-oriented approach.  The roster includes very few players likely to be released, which is largely the product of older veterans Eric Weddle, Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd actually playing out the entirely of their long-term contracts and not having superfluous seasons attached at the end.

-Bryce Johnston, @NFL Cap Analytics

Expected Contract Termination OutcomesExpected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions.   The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016.  A pay cut is treated as a termination.  We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options.  Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.

PlayerPositionExpected OutcomeExpected Savings
Jason VerrettDB99.2%($7,912)
Melvin GordonRB99.0%($64,310)
Corey LiugetF795.4%$184,400
Philip RiversQB93.2%$204,600
D.J. FlukerOL91.6%$0
Orlando FranklinOL91.3%($409,370)
Donald ButlerF789.4%$275,058
Brandon FlowersDB87.5%($500,800)
King DunlapOL62.6%$549,459
Steve JohnsonREC56.0%$836,000
Mike ScifresKP45.9%$1,928,025
Danny WoodheadRB19.9%$1,601,600
Expected Change in Cap Room+$4,596,750

True Cap SpaceRealizable Cap Space depicts the total amount of salary cap space potentially at the team’s disposal in 2016, and True Cap Space makes further adjustments to take into consideration amounts that are accounted for in practical terms.  Most True Cap Space will be used on players currently under contract as a result of the team choosing to not release them.

True Cap Space (2016)
Adjusted Salary Cap$152,318,326
Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts($27,547,036)
Realizable Cap Space$124,771,290
Fully Guaranteed Salary($17,919,168)
Minimum Salary Cap Holds($21,150,000)
True Cap Space$85,702,122
League Rank17th

Commitment Index – Commitment Index identifies the degree to which a team has “mortgaged its future” by measuring its net future salary cap commitments  as a percentage of the average net future salary cap commitments of all teams.  A Commitment Index Score of 100% is average, and a negative Commitment Index Score indicates that the team has more current salary cap space than future salary cap commitments.

Commitment Index (2017+)
Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts$50,860,166
Fully Guaranteed Salary$3,294,945
Current Cap Space($27,347,859)
Net Commitment$26,807,252
Commitment Index Score155%
League Rank (1st = Most Committed)11th

Offseason Plan

I’m not sure if the Chargers have ever recovered from the breakdown of their successful run as a top AFC team back in 2010. They have basically dealt with bad drafts and free agent decisions since then and been able to get by, in part, because of the play of Philip Rivers. This past year not even Rivers could salvage anything out of the team that crashed and burned to a 4 win season.

While normally that would be a signal to begin to rebuild, when you have mega dollars invested in a 35 year old quarterback and a large number of veteran contracts you can’t move it probably pushes San Diego into free agency. They are going to have to make the most of their cap space and find a way to fit some players in to try one last time to win a title with Rivers. Generally you can get 2-3 years out of second contract players and the Chargers need to play to that window starting this offseason.

For San Diego the path back to the playoffs is going to have to start in the trenches. Their offensive and defensive lines are both poor. They cant establish a running game, prevent a rushing attack or keep the quarterback upright.  Center was by far their most glaring need and one of the best in the NFL will be available once Alex Mack voids his contract. The next best option is Stefen Wisniewski. The best left tackles available will be Russell Okung and Cordy Glenn. Okung is hurt too often to really consider. They can also use interior line help but the contracts and draft capital invested there make it unlikely. If they do not come away with an upgrade at least at one of the positions in free agency it’s probably a bad sign for the year.

This is a good year for 34 defensive ends with Muhammad Wilkerson, Malik Jackson, Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry all possibly available. Wilkerson is the most complete player but possibly out of their price range considering they already have big money locked up in Corey Liuget. Either Damon Harrison and Jaye Howard would immediately improve their run defense in the middle.

Finding weapons for Rivers in the passing game also has to be a priority but free agency will be risky in this regard when we look at the realistic players available. The names of Rueben Randle, Rishard Matthews, Marvin Jones, and Travis Benjamin are not going to excite anyone. All of these players have potential but they also have risks that are very real. There is as much reason to expect a Randle to be a 1,000 yard receiver as there is to think he will be a 600 yard receiver. Still it would be surprising if they signed nobody at the position.

The team can also use a safety and an inside linebacker. Unless they are going to come away with Eric Berry it’s probably best to look for a safety in the draft rather than sign a lesser player to replace Weddle who had a terrific career with the Chargers. This is also not a great year for inside linebackers but it may be worth watching the waiver wire there as well as drafting someone.

In the draft they have to hit on their first three picks and produce three eventual starters for the team.  They need their later round picks to at least provide some much needed depth.  The players drafted this year will be the players you build around when Rivers is either retiring or playing at a much lower level at the end of his career. If they don’t get those players in place now it may be a difficult future for the Chargers, wherever they may be playing.

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  • McGeorge

    This team isn’t going anywhere.
    Why not trade Rivers for draft picks.
    They should have done that with Weddle last year.

    Given how “well run” they are, I’m sure they will work out an advantageous deal with Kroenke. ;-)

    • sjt2115

      Trade the only good thing about your team for “draft picks”, which you would probably just screw up anyway. Good thinking.

      • McGeorge

        The Chargers aren’t my team.
        But any team has to operate thinking it can draft at least ok. If the management of a team thinks its scouting is below average, it needs to replace them.
        The owner needs to replace the GM if he’s doing a bad job.
        The Chargers by staying status quo will gradually decline. And they won’t do anything in the short term anyway, so they may as well rebuild. Unless the draft the next DeAndre Hopkins plus some other good starters in 2016.

        • sjt2115

          Pretty clear they aren’t your team, if you think their problem is at receiver. They need beef on the O-line and D-line. They could draft 3 DeAndre Hopkins this year and it wouldn’t help them as much as a solid center and nose tackle.

          As for trading Rivers, franchise QBs are hard to come by. Trading Rivers would get them, what? Maybe 2 first rounders at best, if we go by the deals for Carson Palmer and Jay Cutler a few years ago? And then you have no QB. So either you gamble one of those draft picks on a QB to replace the one you just got rid of, or you hope you can luck into a good qb in free agency or later in the draft, which is extremely unlikely. The idea that you can “rebuild ” by trading a QB for a few draft picks is like cutting off your legs to lose weight and get healthy.

          • McGeorge

            I didn’t say their problem was at receiver. The GM hasn’t drafted well in a long time. Since it will take a few years to rebuild, Rivers will be too old to do much in 3 years. They are wasting his value to them. Far better to blow up a team, and get multiple useful future picks.

            They will need a new QB in a few years anyway. Tank for a couple of years, roll forward excess cap, and draft better. This means getting a new GM and scouting/player evaluation staff.

          • McGeorge

            I didn’t say their problem was at receiver. The GM hasn’t drafted well in a long time. Since it will take a few years to rebuild, Rivers will be too old to do much in 3 years. They are wasting his value to them. Far better to blow up a team, and get multiple useful future picks.

            They will need a new QB in a few years anyway. Tank for a couple of years, roll forward excess cap, and draft better. This means getting a new GM and scouting/player evaluation staff.

  • Werner

    wonder how much attention will be siphoned off from Draft and Roster to relocation. But maybe better to strike it rich in LA at 5-11 instead of going 9-7 in San Diego poverty row…

    • sjt2115

      None. Business operations and Football operations are separate. Though the relocation situation may make signing free agents more complicated.

      • Werner

        everybody in the Organization will have his thoughts wondering on the topic and what it means personally. Just a case of alternate history to wonder if E. Manning would have rejected the LA Chargers also ?

        • sjt2115

          I’m sure it will enter their thoughts, but scouts and GMs are focused on their jobs in football operations. Its not like they won’t be able to watch film because they are making them pack up the moving vans instead.

    • McGeorge

      How are the Chargers going to strike it rich in LA?
      They have to pay a 500MM relocation fee, and Kroenke will gain all the lucrative endorsements ahead of them.
      In addition, the Chargers haven’t been able to develop a large LA fan base in 20 years. LA residents will most likely back the Rams, leaving the Chargers with fewer customers.

  • sjt2115

    Why would Danny Woodhead be expected to be terminated? Did you mean to write Donald Brown? Brown makes more than Woodhead and is about 1/20th as productive.

  • MachoMenos

    It’s great to know there is a window of opportunity to cut Donald Butler. He’s never recovered from a series of injuries that have left him not only slower than before but also unwilling or unable to give 100% out on the field.

    Wilkerson and Mack will probably be out of our price range. Free agency will determine which way they go in the draft. Although I would love for Damon Harrison to be on the Chargers the one area the draft is truly loaded is DT/NT. I believe that they try to make a play in Free Agency for Vinny Curry or Malik Jackson to pair with Corey Luiget unless they fall in love with DeForest Buckner the DE from Oregon, which could very well happen.

    As far as the draft it’s pretty much a guessing game until we find out who they pick up in Free Agency. Although everyone is clamoring for DL and OL help it wouldn’t surprise me if they went for Jalen Ramsey at the FS spot. He could be another Ed Reed in the making and make us forget about our best defensive player, Eric Weddle leaving in Free Agency.

    As far as possible choices of O-lineman, although most are talking up Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker and Cody Whitehair impress me just as much, although most say Whitehair needs to move to Guard. If they can’t sign Barksdale because he wants an outrageous amount of money I wouldn’t mind if DJ Flucker went back to RT and we drafted Joshua Garnett at Guard-he is a beast. Again, depends on Free Agency but expect them to draft a real Center. Robinson was not okay last year. He was a complete mess and Chris Watt just cannot handle the position.

    The wild cards are WR and TE. Floyd is retiring. Do the Chargers think Stevie Johnson is the real deal opposite Keenan Allen? Inman, Herndon and Williams have flashed as backups but can they make the next step? I’d love for us to take Sterling Shepard from Oklahoma, although his stock is rising by the day. Or why not a late round flyer on Braxton Miller.

    And TE?!? Will Gates want to sign a contract that is appropriate at this part of his career or want big money? Will they sign Ladarius Green or will he test the Free Agent market? If they can’t sign them at the right price they need to get a Nick Vannett or Henry Krueger Coble. The other TE’s available don’t do a thing for me.

    Of course, if someone wants our #3 pick we’d be willing to trade it for more draft picks in a heartbeat. Anyone? Anyone?