Chargers Offseason Checklist Part 2: Trades, Cuts or Extensions

  • los angeles chargers
  • Mike Williams
By Tyler Lawrence January 23, 2021 1 Comment
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This is Part 2: Trade/Cut Candidates; a multi-part series to the Los Angeles Chargers Offseason Checklist. To read other installments, click one of the links below.

Chargers Salary Cap Status

Due to COVID-19, the NFL is expected to see a salary cap decrease. In 2020, the salary cap was $198M. Nobody really knows what the salary cap will be in 2021, but the NFL and NFLPA set a floor of $175M. Over the Cap estimates the cap to sit at $175M, a decrease of $23M.

Every NFL team, especially those with little draft capital, will have issues meeting the financial requirements set forth in the upcoming year. With the Chargers $159M cap liability (updated 1/29/2021), this will leave them approximately $24M in cap space.

For all intents and purposes, let’s assume the Chargers will have about $24M of cap space to start the 2021 offseason before making any moves.

Chargers Offseason Trade/Cut Candidates

While the Chargers have $24M in cap space, there are players on their roster who have a high cap number with little guaranteed money. This creates an opportunity for the club to cut ties with players who have not performed at the level that they are being paid at, or maybe the player is a luxury that the team can no longer afford.

Typically, these decisions should be made before free agency, which is both in the team’s and the player’s best interest. For the team, cutting the player gives them needed cap space when they try to acquire available players in free agency. As for the player, this gives him the best opportunity to find a team in need of his services and at the value of the player’s worth. Here is the most previous example…

Cam Newton, regardless of your personal views on the player, was a former NFL MVP and 3x Pro Bowler. He was released late after the typical free agency period. As such, teams who may have needed his services earlier in free agency could not afford him, or no longer needed him. In the end, Newton signed a 1-year, $1.75M contract heavy in incentives and well below his market value had Carolina released him at the start of free agency. He likely could have signed with a club easily making $15M or more just from his track record in his career.

Below is a list of players on the Chargers roster who will be candidates to either be released or traded before the start of NFL free agency:

Wide Receiver Mike Williams

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For whatever reason, Mike Williams has never fully lived up to his potential. For a player drafted 7th-overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, Williams should be a top-15 wide receiver by now. He’s not. There are only a handful of teams Williams would be a WR1 at.

In fact, on many more teams, Williams is a WR3. It’s hard to believe that Williams is better than two of the top receivers on all the following teams: Seattle, Arizona, Houston, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Dallas, Buffalo, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Carolina, and the other Los Angeles Team.

Williams is going to make $15.5M on his 5th-year option in 2021, which would make him a top-10 paid player at his position. An argument can be said that he is not a top-50 player at his position.

Williams is a real threat on 50-yard bombs and he has the size to be an efficient run blocker. The issue with Williams is his limitations as a route runner. According to Next Gen Stats, Williams’s average cushion is 2.0 yards, which is 3rd lowest among all starting receivers.

For reference, the following chart shows routes Williams ran in Week-8 against the Denver Broncos. This shows Williams simplistic, yet very basic route concepts that make it easy for any player who watches film to key in on.

Williams’s salary in 2021 is not guaranteed and Chargers brass should consider getting any draft capital a team might be willing to part within a trade. For a player who has only one 1,000-yard season, injury issues, and has not been a consistently productive player, Williams is not the player he was drafted to be. His trade value could be as high as a 2nd-round pick, but more likely will fetch a 4th to 5th with his cap hit.

Lastly, another option the Chargers have is to extend Mike Williams to a multi-year contract more closely aligned to his actual worth. His value simply does not add up to $15M/year, but something a little closer to $9-12M would be feasible. That would align his contract closer to someone like Sammy Watkins, Devonte Parker, or Alshon Jeffrey. The Chargers are high on Mike Williams, so this is the most likely scenario.

Offensive Guard Trai Turner

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While Trai Turner shouldn’t be in any real danger of losing his job in 2021, the fact remains that he has an $11.5M cap hit with no guaranteed money. Turner played one game in the first 10-weeks of this season. In nine games, Turner has allowed 19 total pressures, with one sack and two hits. He has not been overly effective in the run game either.

Still, Turner is a 5x Pro Bowler and the Chargers have not had a realistic option to fill in while he’s been injured. Behind him has been a revolving door of subpar Guard play. With a full offseasons rest and a training camp to get back to shape, Turner should bounce back to his Pro Bowl level of play. It’s also worth noting that the Chargers have not had a Guard make a Pro Bowl since Kris Dielman in 2010.

Expect Turner to either be released or receive a contract extension to free up some cap space. Details below.

Defensive Tackle Linval Joseph

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There is very little reason to believe that Joseph will be cut on the final year of his contract. Joseph will make $11.5M in 2021. If he were to be cut, it would cost the team $4M in dead money, so the possibility exists of saving $7.9M in total. Still, Joseph’s veteran presence has been raved about all season by other members on the defensive line and he has played up to his contract in a down year for the Chargers.

Additionally, there is not another 1-tech defensive tackle under contract next year. Joseph has been noticeably better than Brandon Mebane was over the past few years. He was credited with 28 stops (most on the team) and had a 9%  Stop%. The two starters ahead of him were Denzel Perryman‘s 11.6% (with limited playing time) and Joey Bosa 10.8%.

Joseph also shows more hustle than you would expect from a 330-pound behemoth. He’s been a vital cog on the interior of the defense and will be an important piece to the defense next season, especially for Kenneth Murray‘s development as the middle linebacker.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr

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It is hard to see the Chargers keeping both Chris Harris Jr. and Casey Hayward next season. Both players are 31 years old, and neither player looks like their former All-Pro selves. The Chargers could opt to extend both players which would keep them both on the roster. New head coach Brandon Staley spent time with Harris jr. and Staley’s defense likely will have many defensive backs on the field at one time.

Harris has given up two touchdowns from the slot this season and given up 27 receptions on 38 targets in 2020. Quarterbacks have a 128.6 passer rating when targeting Harris, but those stats are inflated a bit. He has only played in seven games this year due to injury, so his sample size isn’t great. Harris can still be a productive player if retained, but his best days are behind him.

On the flip side, this Chargers offseason should include Michael Davis being a priority extension as the team’s best cornerback right now. With Hayward, Davis and Harris all part of the secondary, that could be an expensive room next season.

Cornerback Casey Hayward

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Casey Hayward is a strong candidate for being a cap casualty this offseason. Hayward has regressed considerably from his All-Pro days, but he does follow WR1’s far more often than any other player in the Chargers secondary. If cut, Hayward would save the Charger $9.75M against the cap.

Hayward has struggled considerably in deep coverage, but he has been very twitchy in underneath zone and man. and his football IQ still looks high. At this point in his career, Hayward might be better suited as the single-high safety or in the slot. At least it seems that way when watching film.

In coverage, Hayward has given up five touchdowns against receivers. Primarily, Hayward has struggled against receivers with speed, so a change from outside corner to a different position might give him a reawakening. Think about how Charles Woodsen had success moving to safety in Green Bay.

If having to choose between Casey Hayward and Chris Harris Jr., Hayward is a better all-around coverage corner. Hayward also has experience playing in the slot from his days in Green Bay. While he has noticeably regressed, he still shows flashes of brilliance. Hayward always seems in position to make plays on the ball even against some of the league premier receivers. For that, he should be brought back.

Summary

The Chargers will have approximately $24M in cap space to start the 2020 offseason. By trading or cutting Mike Williams in the offseason, the Chargers would gain an additional $15M in cap space. The more likely scenario is an extension that would look similar to the breakout below.

  • Mike Williams 4-years/$40M – $30M guarenteed($10.0M/avg) ($6M cap hit in 2021)
    • Year 1 ($6.0)
    • Year 2 ($8M)
    • Year 3 ($11.5M)
    • Year 4 ($14.5M) – $4.5M dead cap in 2023
  • Trai Turner 3-years/$30M – $22M guaranteed ($10M/avg)($6.5M cap hit in 2021)
    • Year 1 ($6.5M)
    • Year 2 ($10.0M)
    • Year 3 ($13.5M) – $5.5M dead cap in 2023
  • Linval Joseph 2-years/$16M – $9M Guaranteed (8M/avg)
    • Year 1 ($5M)
    • Year 2 ($11M) – $4M dead cap in 2022
  • Chris Harris Jr. 2-years/$16M – $10M guaranteed ($8M/avg) (6M cap hit in 2021)
    •  Year 1 – ($6.0M)
    • Year 2 – ($10M) – $4M dead cap in 2022
  • Casey Hayward 2-year/$18M – $12M guaranteed ($9M/avg)
    • Year 1 – ($7M)
    • Year 2 – ($11M) $5M dead cap in 2022

With the extensions outlined above, the Chargers would save about $9.5M for Mike Williams and $4.8M for Trai Turner. In extensions for Harris, it would save the Chargers about $5M. Casey Hayward would also save the Chargers about $4.5M. Linval Joseph would save about $7M. In all with extensions, the Chargers could save an additional $31M. These seem like better deals for the players because it would provide more guaranteed money in an offseason where players are not likely to want to hit free agency.

In total, the Chargers could extend their salary cap from $24M to $55M with extensions for these players.


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1 Comments

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Tom

January 23, 2021

Keep williams ..let hayward go

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