New faces: LB Thomas Davis, QB Tyrod Taylor, DT Jerry Tillery, S Nasir Adderley, WR Dontrelle Inman, P Tyler Newsome
They’re gone: WR Tyrell Williams, DT Corey Liuget, S Jahleel Addae, CB Jason Verrett, DT Darius Philon, P Donnie Jones
2019 snapshot: Already one of the better teams in the AFC, the Chargers didn’t need any remodeling this spring, instead focusing on minor touchups.
They found much-needed talent and depth at linebacker, re-signing Denzel Perryman (two years, $12 million) and adding Davis (two years, $10.5 million) on very reasonable deals. Dime safety Adrian Phillips (one year, $2 million) was also retained for cheap, giving coordinator Gus Bradley several options to cover tight ends and running backs.
GM Tom Telesco addressed the D-line by keeping Brandon Mebane (two years, $10.6 million) and drafting Tillery, whose upside is among the highest of any prospect in the 2019 draft class. He then found a perfect partner for Derwin James in Adderley (second round), who has the speed and ball skills to patrol center field while James hunts in the box.
However, James is due to miss at least half of the regular season after having surgery to repair a fracture in his foot. His loss is a major blow to a talented defense. Left tackle Russell Okung’s status is also up in the air as he battles pulmonary embolism, casting more doubt on an offensive line that already looked a bit shaky at guard and right tackle. The best hope would be fore 2017 second-rounder Forrest Lamp to develop.
Williams’ departure was inevitable (and should bring a fourth-round compensatory pick). While another body at wide receiver would have helped, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin and Inman should be able to pick up the slack. Likewise, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson should be enough in the backfield if Melvin Gordon’s holdout continues into the season.
Get to know… DT Justin Jones
A third-round pick out of N.C. State in 2018, Jones had just 17 tackles (none for loss) and a half-sack in 15 games as a reserve, but he garnered attention throughout camp as a player who could take a leap forward in a starting role.
Worth the investment?
–Taking the over on the Chargers’ 10-win total is scary given their rotten luck in recent years — which was perpetuated with James’ injury — but this team is good enough to win 13 or even 14.
–Philip Rivers has never won MVP, garnering only two votes when he led the NFL in passer rating in 2008. But there are worse bets than his +2000 odds.
Bottom line: Two wins from the Super Bowl a year ago, the Chargers return largely the same team despite a few question marks. They should threaten in the playoffs yet again.