The Philip Rivers era has ended. Tyrod Taylor is a fine backup but is not a franchise caliber Quarterback. Easton Stick, a 2019 5th rounder from DII North Dakota State, deserves an opportunity to compete for the job but didn't exactly inspire confidence after a disappointing preseason performance. Finding a long term answer at the position should be the #1 priority in LA.
Need Level: Very High
Chargers Free Agency Preview at Quarterback: As it stands now there are some very intriguing QB options set to hit free agency. Dak Prescott, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston are each young (27 years or under) and offer franchise QB upside. I doubt Prescott hits the market but Winston and Bridgewater may be available at reasonable rates considering both have a lot to prove after up and down starts to their respective careers. Marcus Mariota and Taysom Hill are probably a tier below the first three but also offer enticing upside. Of course, Tom Brady will receive consideration, while he is not a long term option, it's possible he could transform the already talented Chargers roster into a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Chargers Draft Preview at Quarterback: If the Chargers opt to draft a QB there will be a number of quality options, including Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, Jalen Hurts, and Jake Fromm. If the Chargers are targeting Tagovailoa or Herbet they will may need to move up from pick #6, as elite QBs have a tendency to go off the board within the Top 4 picks.
Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are free agents in 2020. Gordon's relationship with the Chargers got tumultuous last year and both parties may be looking to move in different directions, especially if Gordon is still seeking the type of money the Chargers had no interest in paying him last year. Ekeler on the the other hand, is a restricted free agent, which means the Chargers (assuming they tender him) can match any offer he receives or receive draft pick compensation if they choose not to match. Ekeler is coming off an impressive season (where he established himself as one of the best pass catching RBs in the league) and I expect the Chargers to offer him a long term deal that pays him to be the team's featured running back. Justin Jackson averaged nearly 7 ypc on 29 carries in 2019 and is presumed #2 RB in 2020.
Need Level: High
Chargers Free Agency Preview at Running Back: The Chargers will almost certainly retain at least one of their two free agent RBs (most likely Ekeler), if somehow that does not happen, free agents options may include Derrick Henry, Kareem Hunt, and Matt Breida. Anyone of the three are capable of handling lead back duties. If the Chargers retain Ekeler but not Gordon, they could look to the second or third tier of the free agent RB market for a complimentary back, fits for that role could be Jordan Howard, Jonathan Williams, and Lamar Miller (who is coming off ACL tear).
Chargers Draft Preview at Running Back: RB prospects like D'Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, and Jonathan Taylor project as NFL caliber starters and are possibilities for the Chargers depending on what happens in free agency.
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams make up one of the more talented and dangerous WR duos in the league but the Chargers lack of proven depth behind those two. The team could use a few more threats at the position. And if Tom Brady joins the team, you have to assume the Chargers will prioritize reinforcing this unit.
Need Level: Mild
Chargers Free Agency Preview at Wide Receiver: The Chargers may show interest in players like Emmanuel Sanders, Randall Cobb, Paul Richardson, and Devin Funchess - vets who will likely sign reasonably affordable deals given their age (Sanders, Amendola) and or injury history (Cobb, Funchess, Richardson). Any of them would be upgrades behind Allen and Williams.
Chargers Draft Preview at Wide Receiver: While selecting a WR in the first round is probably out of the question, the Chargers could target prospects on Day 2 and 3 of the draft. Prospects like Jalen Reagor and KJ Hamler would add a lot of speed to the WR depth chart.
Hunter Henry is set to enter free agency and if I were the Chargers I'd strongly consider bringing him back - there just isn't a large supply of talented, young Tight Ends in the league. While Henry's career with the Chargers can be defined as "good, not great," I think he's worth the money. The Chargers do not have an obvious replacement, or really any depth behind him.
Need Level: High
Chargers Free Agency Preview at Tight End: If the Chargers are unable to retain Henry, there are some other big names on the market, such as Austin Hooper (who may be better than Henry, but also more expensive) and Eric Ebron. Lesser known but intriguing options, from an upside perspective, include Blake Jarwin (who has flashed over the years in Dallas) and Jacob Hollister (who was productive in Seattle last year).
Chargers Draft Preview at Tight End: The top of the Tight End draft class consists of Brycen Hopkins, Cole Kmet, and Hunter Bryant.
Once again the Chargers fielded one of the worst performing offensive lines in football. The whole depth chart is a mess, as there is a not single player who currently projects as a healthy, long term, high quality starter. At Left Tackle the Chargers have an aging Russell Okung, who missed half the season with a medical issue and was ineffective and heavily penalized upon his return. There has been buzz that he will be cut this offseason. On the right side the starter is Sam Tevi, who has graded out as below average RT. The Chargers hope 2019 3rd rounder Trey Pipkins, will blossom into a starting OT, but he looked overmatched as a rookie. Right Guard Dan Feeney wowed as a rookie in 2017 but has seemingly regressed since then, while Left Guard Michael Schofield (who also graded out below average) is set to become a free agent. Perhaps 2017 2nd roudner, Forrest Lamp, whose career has never really began due to consistent injury, will breakthrough at guard in 2020. The team's best offensive lineman is Mike Pouncey, who was a Pro Bowler in 2018, but he suffered a season ending neck injury last October and may not be ready for the start of the season. His replacement, Scott Quessenberry, played well in relief and provides solid depth. If everyone can stay healthy, the depth chart as it stands now (Okung, Feeney, Pouncy/Quessenberry, Lamp, Tevi) may be passable, but it is also very upgradeable. A long term solution at OT is needed, even if Pipkins develops into a starter. I also believe the Chargers will want to at least reinforce offensive guard, with Schofield a free agent and Feeney/Lamp unreliable at this point.
Need Level: Very High
Chargers Offensive Line Free Agency Preview: The Chargers won't find much on the market in terms of upgrades at LT, but there are some solid RT options, including Jack Conklin, Daryl Williams, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The team could even kick the tires on older, short-term options like Bryan Bulaga, Marcus Gilbert, and even Jason Peters. The offensive guard market consists of Pro Bowl talents (who will likely be expensive) in the form of Joe Thuney and Brandon Scherff, but also less established and likely more affordable possibilities like Graham Glasgow, Greg Van Roten, Austin Peat, and Ereck Flowers.
Chargers Offensive Line Draft Preview: The 1st round of the draft is full of high quality Offensive Tackle prospects, this list includes Jedrick Wills Jr, Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, and Josh Jones. It's likely all or most of them will be the on board when the Chargers pick at #6. Options along the interior include Solomon Kindley, Shane Lemieux, Tyler Biadasz, and Nick Harris.
Defensive Line / Edge Rush
Despite having one of the league's best pass rush duos in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers ranked 28th in the league with only 30 sacks. The issue isn't Bosa or Ingram, they're great, the issue is the lack of complimentary pass rushers. Starting DTs Justin Jones and Brandon Mebane combined for 0 sacks. While hyped 1st rounder Jerry Tillery only recorded 2 sacks, albeit in a rotational role. Tillery deserves an opportunity to start in 2020, but you have to imagine the Chargers will target an upgrade for the other DT spot and scope out options to improve depth along the line in general.
Need Level: Medium
Chargers Defensive Line Free Agency Preview: The Chargers could pursue top of class defensive lineman like Chris Jones, Arik Armstead, DJ Reader, Leonard Williams, and Javon Hargrave, but also consider more affordable options like Maliek Collins, Michael Brockers, Quinton Jefferson, and Timmy Jernigan. Veterans Robert Quinn, Adrian Clayborn, and Mario Addison could garner interest as rotational DEs.
Chargers Defensive Line Draft Preview: Derrick Brown would be a tempting option if available at #6 overall, other top DLs include Javon Kinlaw, Ross Blacklock, and Neville Gallimore.
The Chargers seem to have the right personnel at LB but consistency is lacking. Denzel Perryman headlines the group, but he has yet to complete a full 16 game season through his 5 years in the league Thomas Davis was solid in his first year with the Chargers, but the 36 year old is not a long solution and may be an offseason cap casualty. Younger players like Kyzir White and Drue Tranquill impressed in part time roles in 2019 and both may earn starting roles in 2020. 2018 2nd rounder Uchenna Nwosu, a hybrid LB/DE, has failed to register much production through his first 2 seasons and 2020 will make or break for him. With a solid vet presence in Perryman and Davis and the upside of White and Tranquil LB is not a big need for the Chargers.
Chargers Free Agency Preview at Linebacker: If the Chargers do end up making Perryman or Davis a cap casualty, they could explore more dynamic LBs linke Corey Littleton (a 2019 Pro Bowler) or Joe Schobert.
Chargers Draft Preview at Linebacker: Isaiah Simmons, a LB-S hybrid is a true impact defender who could help this defense take the next step, I don't foresee the Chargers selecting him though, due to more pressing needs elsewhere. Other LBs that may receive consideration are Patrick Queen, Kenneth Murray, and Zach Baun.
Injuries hampered the Chargers secondary in 2019, but this a quality group. Safety Derwin James should return to Pro Bowl form after an injury disrupted his 2019 season. Next to him, 2019 second rounder Nasir Adderley (who had an injury end his rookie season before it began) will be expected to win the starting job. Casey Hayward continues to play at a very high level but the rest of the CB depth chart did not play up to par. Slot corner Desmond King experienced a noticeable regression from his stellar 2018 campaign. While other cornerbacks Brandon Facyson and Michael Davis proved relatively ineffective. A healthy season from James, a breakthrough from Adderly, continued success from Hayward, and a redemption season for King is certainly possible - but even if that happens an additional starter at CB is needed.
Need Level: Medium
Chargers Defensive Back Free Agency Preview: Byron Jones is the prize gem of the free agency Cornerback class, and would be a Grade A acquisition, but he won't be cheap. Other logical fits include James Bradberry, Chris Harris, and Bradley Roby. Potential buy lows include Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby (two injury prone Eagles CBs who are talented when healthy). The Chargers could also kick the tires on big name older vets like Josh Norman and Aqib Talib to see if there is anything left in the tank.
Chargers Defensive Back Draft Preview: The Chargers may be in position to select Jeffrey Okudah with the #6 overall pick - he has the makings of a special cornerback. Possible second round options include Bryce Hall, A.J Terrell, and Jeff Gladney.
Michael Badgley missed a decent portion of the season with an injury ,but upon a return was solid and appears to be the long term solution at Kicker. Punter Ty Long had one of the better punt averages in the league but was among the worst in the NFL at pinning the ball inside the 20, the Chargers could open up Punter up for competition.
Need Level: Low
Chargers Special Teams Free Agency Preview: Not applicable.
Chargers Special Teams Draft Preview: Perhaps a late round pick or UDFA Punter to push Long.