Chargers Free Agent Targets at Every Defensive Position

  • Defensive Free Agents
  • Denzel Perryman
  • john Johnson
  • Leonard Floyd
  • shaquill griffin
  • Shelby Harris
By Tyler Lawrence March 15, 2021 0 Comment
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With the hiring of Brandon Staley this offseason, the Los Angeles Chargers will be installing a new defensive scheme. To fit the scheme, the Chargers will look to acquire new free agent targets to fill the void left by the last coaching staff.  The Chargers have already begun remodeling, releasing Casey Hayward Jr who didn’t seem to fit the mold of a Staley defensive back.

With the Chargers making even more cap space prior to the start of free agency, there could be a large handful of transactions on both sides of the ball. While offensive line will dominate headlines, defense is Brandon Staley’s specialty. Here are some top defensive free agents the Chargers will likely be in the market for.

Defensive End – Leonard Floyd (3-year/$39M)

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Leonard Floyd had a breakout year under Brandon Staley. Floyd signed a 1-year/$10M contract with the Rams last season after the Chicago Bears declined his 5th-year option. For a player drafted 9th-overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, Floyd never seemed to live up to expectations until he left Chicago.

Last year, Floyd notched 10.5 sacks to go with 55 total tackles. He was most comfortable rushing from the right side where he had an 11.9 pass-rush productivity score, second only to Joey Bosa at 12.3. Overall, Floyd would be an upgrade over Uchenna Nwosu and an obvious fit-in scheme.

Floyd won’t come cheap though. He will likely command a contract in excess of $13M average annual value. The Chargers do have the cap to bring him in, but Nwosu has been productive in limited snaps and is deserving of a larger role. Still, the relationship with Staley combined with the philosophy of attacking the quarterback does bring some intrigue.

Defensive Tackle – Shelby Harris (2-year/$8M)

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Shelby Harris has quietly been one of the better interior defensive linemen over the past five years. He doesn’t generate the stats that command large paychecks, but he is a terrific run defender who does offer something as a pass rusher as well. Last season, he signed a 1-year/$3.5M contract to stay with the Broncos, which was a steal.

Harris was graded 88.3 for DEF last season according to PFF while generating three sacks. He established a Run Stop Percentage of 8.5% which ranked 4th in the entire AFC West. He only played in 11 games last season as a rotational player, but he’s been mostly available over his career.

The Chargers do not have a big need at defensive tackle unless, Jerry Tillery moves to Edge full time, but Linval Joseph isn’t getting any younger. Chargers’ new defensive coordinator, Ronaldo Hill, and Brandon Staley both are familiar with Harris. He’s a low-cost, rotational piece able to keep the defensive line fresh.

Linebacker – Denzel Perryman (2-year/$10M)

Denzel Perryman is the homegrown Chargers free agent target that might be the best option if the Chargers were to sign a linebacker for depth. They are familiar with his skill set, he’s a fan favorite and he played much better as a fresh backup.

With Kenneth Murray and Drue Tranquill likely to remain full-time starters next season, there isn’t a defined role for Perryman currently. He could likely find a linebacker nerdy team where he could play more and sign a larger paycheck in free agency. If he wanted to stay, he would be a welcome addition at a low cost.

Cornerback – Shaquill Griffin (4-year/$44M)

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Since the Chargers released Casey Hayward, they do not have a true CB1. Chris Harris Jr. is more of a slot corner playing the flats and hooks, though he can line up outside on occasion. He likely won’t follow WR1’s around on defense, similar to what Jalen Ramsey did last year. There is a need for a bonafide lock-down corner.

There may not be a true lockdown corner this year in free agency, but Griffin might be the closest thing. In 2017 and 2019, Griffin had over 13 pass breakups for the Seahawks. He allowed a reception once every 12 coverage snaps which ranked 24th among corners.

Griffin could be the same kind of high-value signing that Hayward was five years ago. He is only 25-years-old, so his best football is definitely ahead of him. He won’t be cheap, but he has the potential to outplay his contract. Spottrac estimates his value at $11M/year which could turn out to be a steal.


Safety – John Johnson III (5-year/$45M)

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One of the hottest Chargers free agent targets might be John Johnson III. Johnson was PFF’s 5th ranked safety (85.6) in the NFL last season. He obviously shined playing under Staley and racked up 90 tackles in a two-high safety look.

Johnson didn’t play much in 2019 due to injury, but he’s been a bright spot for the Rams in three out of four years. He is been a strong tackler in space and doesn’t get beat in coverage. He’s the prototypical hybrid safety that does a little bit of everything.

The Chargers do still have Nasir Adderley who hasn’t lived up to expectations through his first two seasons. Adderley previously played corner in college and could theoretically transition back to that role and play some nickel/dime if asked. The presence of Adderley should not deter Staley and Company from potentially having the best safety tandem with Derwin James and John Johnson in two high looks.

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