The San Diego Chargers looked like a team ready to challenge the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots for AFC supremacy after six games last season. San Diego was 5-1 and steamrolling teams, including an impressive win over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks.
However, things unraveled against the Kansas City Chiefs, who went into Qualcomm Stadium and won 23-20 on a last-minute field goal by rookie Cairo Santos. The Chiefs then finished the Chargers off in Week 17 behind Justin Houston, who registered four sacks in a 19-7 triumph which knocked San Diego out of playoff contention.
So where do the Chargers go from here? Let's break down what their offseason will look like:
Projected to be $25.25 million at an $140 million limit, per Over The Cap.
Pending unrestricted free agents
- Seyi Ajirotutu, WR
- Ronnie Brown, RB
- Jeromey Clary, OG
- King Dunlap, OT
- Brandon Flowers, CB
- Dwight Freeney, OLB
- Andrew Gachkar, LB
- Marcus Gilchrist, S
- Doug Legursky, C
- Mat McBriar, P
- Ricardo Mathews, DE
- Ryan Mathews, RB
- Rich Ohrnberger, C
- Eddie Royal, WR
- Willie Smith, OL
- Shareece Wright, CB
The major names here are Flowers, Mathews, Dunlap and Royal. While the latter two should be reasonable deals, Flowers and Mathews are both going to command a decent contract. Flowers is still in his 20's and plays a premium position. Mathews has a vast injury history which will lower his number somewhat, but he is highly productive when on the field.
Future contracts to watch
Philip Rivers is entering the final year of his deal. At 33 years old, Rivers is still playing at an elite level and needs to be given an extension. While Rivers is the main contract to worry about going forward, defensive end Corey Liuget will also command a nice salary. Liuget is on the books for $6.96 million in 2015 and then is slated to become a free agent.
Antonio Gates, 34, is still producing and is another 2016 free agent. Does San Diego let him walk or sign one more contract? Wide receiver Malcom Floyd also is in his final year and only getting $4.7 million this season. Expect Floyd to get a nice chunk of change somewhere in 2016.
Linebacker Jarrett Johnson is the only significant cap casualty. Johnson is scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2015 but will be cut, saving San Diego $5 million.
Positions of need
- Offensive line
- Defensive line
- Outside linebacker
What they are saying
Over at Bolts From The Blue, Kyle Posey and Kevin Grauel listed the top five free agents the Chargers should target. Two of the top five include Rodney Hudson (No. 5) and Justin Houston (No. 1). While Houston is not going anywhere, Hudson is a reasonable target should the Chiefs let him walk. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee of the Baltimore Ravens is also listed, along with Bryan Bulaga and Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers.
Expect some nasty competition between San Diego and Kansas City on many of the same players.