1 pending free agent Chargers could target from each NFL team
The Chargers won’t be as aggressive as they have been in recent years regarding signing free agents.
Even after making moves to get cap compliant before the new league year begins on Wednesday, Los Angeles’ priorities will be to re-sign some of their players and extend Justin Herbert.
After that, they should have some spendings available to sign some low-cost players.
That said, here is one pending free agent from each team in the NFL that could be a realistic target for L.A.
Arizona Cardinals: LB Ben Niemann
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The Chargers’ linebacker room will be thin if Drue Tranquill is not re-signed. If so, they will need to seek out more players to add to the group, and what better way to do so than by getting the older brother of someone already in there, with that being third-year Nick Niemann? After losing one of their starters, Nick Vigil, the Cardinals gave Niemann a bigger role, where he started nine games and became an integral part of the defense. Niemann was consistent in coverage and as a run defender, finishing with a career-high in tackles (70) while adding two passes defended, a pair of tackles for loss and an interception. Most notably, he had a whopping 90.2 tackling grade, per Pro Football Focus.
Atlanta Falcons: WR Olamide Zaccheaus
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The Chargers have a need for speed at the wide receiver and Zaccheaus, a former track athlete could bring that. Zaccheaus has ascended every year since entering the NFL in 2019 after going undrafted out of Virginia Tech. He is coming off his best season as a pro. Zacchaeus had 40 catches for 533 yards and three touchdowns in 2022.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Demarcus Robinson
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Robinson flourishes as a down-the-field and after-the-catch threat, winning with his straight-line speed and slivers of separation with his polished route running. In addition, his 6-foot-1 and 207-pound frame and strong hands allow him to succeed in contested situations and the red zone. Robinson spent six years with the Chiefs, with 145 receptions for 1,679 yards and 14 touchdowns. This past season with the Ravens, Robinson had 48 catches for 458 yards and a pair of scores.
Buffalo Bills: OT Bobby Hart
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The Chargers could be down two starting offensive linemen: Trey Pipkins, if he is not re-signed and Matt Feiler, if the team elects to release him as a move to clear up cap space. Hart did not play a lot in 2022 but he has a lot of experience at right tackle throughout his pro career and he has logged snaps at right guard, left guard and left tackle.
Carolina Panthers: DT Matt Ioannidis
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Morgan Fox is set to be a free agent, which means that they would need another pass-rush presence from the interior if he is not brought back. Ioannidis has finished with a pass rush grade over 69.0 in all but one of his seven seasons as a pro, per Pro Football Focus. In that timeframe, Ioannidis has 217 quarterback pressures and 29 sacks. Ioannidis is perfect for the 4i-technique role, which was held by Fox this past season.
Chicago Bears: WR Dante Pettis
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Pettis has not lived up to his second-round billing, but he still has the speed the Chargers need. This past season for Chicago, he caught 19 passes for 245 yards. His best campaign came during his rookie season, in which Pettis notched 27 catches for 467 yards and five touchdowns with 17.3 yards per catch.
Cincinnati Bengals: G Max Scharping
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Scharping is a player with plenty of experience, with 33 starts. Scharping was originally a 2019 second-round pick by the Texans. He played his first two seasons at left guard, allowing four sacks on 930 pass-blocking snaps. In 2021, he moved to right guard, where he allowed two sacks on 400 pass block snaps. Scharping was waived prior to the 2022 season and picked up by the Bengals. He served as depth before being called on to start in Cincinnati’s three playoff games due to injuries. Overall, Scharping has the stoutness, run blocking and athleticism to be counted on in a pinch. Additionally, he has the versatility to play tackle.
Cleveland Browns: RB D'Ernest Johnson
The Chargers finished with one of the least efficient rushing offenses in the league. Much of it has to do with the injuries along the offensive line and to Donald Parham and Keenan Allen. But Sony Michel wasn’t impactful, nor was Isaiah Spiller or Larry Rountree. Joshua Kelley flashed, but he was hurt for four games. Ultimately, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore may want to bring in a new body to the running back room to compete behind Austin Ekeler. Johnson only had four carries and 17 yards in 2022 while being buried on the depth chart behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. However, his 2021 campaign saw him carry the ball 100 times for 534 yards (5.3 yards per carry) when Chubb and Hunt were hurt, showing that he can be a solid contributor.
Dallas Cowboys: QB Cooper Rush
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Chase Daniel and Easton Stick are set to be free agents, and it’s difficult to see a scenario where they are brought back. So instead, it would make sense for the Chargers to get someone well-versed in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s system to be the new backup quarterback to Justin Herbert. This season, Rush was 4-1 as Dallas’ starter in place of an injured Dak Prescott. Rush has 125 of 212 passing (59 completion percentage) for 1,475 yards, eight touchdowns, and four interceptions.
Denver Broncos: Darius Phillips
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With Bryce Callahan set to be a free agent, the Chargers could add another slot corner to the room with Ja’Sir Taylor and more special teams talent.
Phillips spent the first four years of his career with the Bengals, where he appeared in 47 games and started ten contests. He recorded 73 tackles, five career interceptions, 23 passes defended, and three forced fumbles. With the Broncos, Phillips was primarily a special teamer.
Phillips returned punts and kicks with Cincinnati. He fielded 25 punts and returned them for 177 yards for a 7.1 yards per return average (a long of 17). This could come in handy as DeAndre Carter is also slated to be a free agent.
Detroit Lions: DB Will Harris
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Brandon Staley covets position versatility on the back end of the defense, something that Harris has with his ability to play in the slot, free safety, outside corner and in the box. Additionally, Harris’ strength is as a tackler, something the Chargers could benefit from, given their struggles in this department last season. Harris posted a tackling grade of 82.5 in 2021 and 76.4 this past season, per Pro Football Focus.
Green Bay Packers: EDGE Justin Hollins
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The Chargers need more depth at edge defender behind Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, and Brandon Staley could be intrigued to bring one in he is familiar with. Staley was Hollins’ defensive coordinator in 2019 with the Broncos. That year, Hollins amassed ten quarterback pressures and a sack in a rotational role. Hollins is coming off his best year as a pro, finishing with 15 pressures, eight hurries and four sacks.
Houston Texans: EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
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Okoronkwo is coming off a productive season with the Texans, amassing 44 combined tackles, 5.0 sacks, nine tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble through 17 games. Okoronkwo proved himself getting after the quarterback, as he finished with a 22.9% pass-rush win rate (7th) and 17.5 pressure percentage (8th). Okoronkwo is familiar with Brandon Staley, having been on the Rams together when Staley was their defensive coordinator in 2020.
Indianapolis Colts: OT Dennis Kelly
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Bringing in competition for the swing tackle spot with Storm Norton and Foster Sarell would be beneficial, as the two have struggled when they have been called on to play in games. Kelly is entering his 12th season in the NFL after spending time with the Eagles (2012-2015), Titans (2016-2020), Packers (2021) and Colts (2022). Kelly has played in 130 regular season games with 54 starts; he’s also appeared in eight playoff games with two starts. He has experience at both tackle spots.
Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Adam Gotsis
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Entering his eighth season in the NFL, Gotsis has been a steady and consistent player. His strong suit is against the run, where he has 22 tackles for loss. But Gotsis can rush the passer well, and he has a knack for getting his hands on the football, as he has 18 passes defended. Gotsis is familiar with Brandon Staley, having been on the Broncos together in 2019 when Staley was their outside linebackers coach.
Kansas City Chiefs: OL Nick Allegretti
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Allegretti is a versatile backup lineman with most of his experience at left guard, but he’s also played right guard and some center. On 638 pass block snaps, Allegretti has allowed 31 quarterback pressures and only one sack. Oh, and he has a touchdown reception.
Las Vegas Raiders: LB Micah Kiser
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Between the Rams (2018-21) and Broncos (2021), Kiser has appeared in 36 games with 11 starts, recording 94 tackles, three passes defended and one forced fumble. Kiser was signed to Las Vegas last offseason, but he did not appear in a single game after suffering a leg injury. Brandon Staley is familiar with Kiser, having been on the Rams together in 2020 when Staley was their defensive coordinator.
Los Angeles Rams: CB Troy Hill
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The Rams have a few pending free agents who played under Staley when he was their defensive coordinator in 2020. But with a need to add more depth at cornerback, given Bryce Callahan is set to hit the free agency market, Hill could be a great option. Hill had a career year playing for Staley. He tied for second on the team with three interceptions and scored three of the Rams’ defensive touchdowns that year. Hill also had ten passes defended. In 2021, the Browns signed him to a huge deal. But traded him back to the Rams after just one season, and he is now set to be a free agent again. Furthermore, Hill can play outside cornerback and in the slot.
Miami Dolphins: WR Trent Sherfield
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Sherfield is coming off a career year for Miami, which saw him amass 30 receptions, 417 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Sherfield, the former Vanderbilt product, ran a 4.45 40 at his pro day in 2018.
Minnesota Vikings: CB Duke Shelley
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Shelley took over as the starter in Week 15 and was nothing short of dominant. Shelley finished the regular season with the third-best coverage grade among all cornerbacks, behind only Sauce Gardner and Patrick Surtain. He did not allow a touchdown all season and recorded ten passes defended, the fourth most in the NFL, in just five games started.
New England Patriots: S Jabrill Peppers
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Peppers was buried on the depth chart in New England’s deepest position group, but he was still a key contributor when on the field, providing a brand of physicality on defense. Peppers’ run defense grade was the seventh-highest among 82 qualified safeties, according to Pro Football Focus. He also played a vital role on special teams. Furthermore, Peppers has the ability to play multiple spots: In the box, slot corner and free safety, supplying the position versatility that Brandon Staley covets.
New Orleans Saints: S Daniel Sorensen
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Sorensen was signed on a veteran’s minimum contract last off-season. While he was primarily a special teamer, Sorensen started on defense in the season’s final three weeks and showed promise. In limited playing time, Sorensen still finished with two interceptions and three passes defended. He was also reliable as a tackler. Sorensen finished with an 80.7 tackling grade, per Pro Football Focus. Prior to joining New Orleans, Sorensen spent eight seasons with the Chiefs.
New York Giants: WR Richie James
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With experience from the slot and outside, James has great speed to get good separation, stretch the field and create yards after the catch. He’s also competitive as a blocker. James is coming off the most productive season to date. He posted a career-high 57 receptions for 569 yards, four touchdowns, and added 24 punt returns for 174 yards.
New York Jets: LB Kwon Alexander
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Alexander has been on four teams since getting drafted out of LSU in 2015. While he’s not the defender he was early in his career with the Buccaneers, the 28-year-old Alexander can still supply some play-making ability. For his career, Alexander has amassed 590 tackles, 49 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 29 quarterback hits, eight interceptions, 33 passes defended and 11 forced fumbles.
Philadelphia Eagles: S Marcus Epps
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Epps is excellent against the run, as evident from an 84.4 run defense grade last season and an 87.7 grade the year before. He is solid in coverage and has versatility, having logged most of his reps from the free safety spot but also with experience in the box and the slot. Furthermore, Epps is still youthful, being only 27 years old.
Pittsburgh Steelers: EDGE Malik Reed
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Staley was Reed’s position coach in 2019 on the Broncos. In three seasons with Denver, Reed had over 20 quarterback pressures, with 36 coming in 2020. That was also the same year he had a career-high eight sacks. This past season, the Steelers traded for Reed. He had a down year, finishing with just ten pressures. But at 26 years old, Reed is still a young and talented edge defender who could supply juice in a rotational role.
San Francisco 49ers: EDGE Jordan Willis
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Willis fits the billing of a prototypical Brandon Staley edge defender with long arms and explosiveness. With San Francisco, Willis was a reliable rotational defender who applied pressure on the quarterback when he was on the field. On 134 pass-rush attempts, he finished with 12 pressures, seven hurries and two sacks this past season. At 27 years old, Willis still has plenty of juice in him.
Seattle Seahawks: WR Marquise Goodwin
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While signing a wide receiver who is 32 is not ideal, and it would be more reasonable to draft one, Goodwin still showed some promise this past season that would be worth considering at the very least. Despite ending up on the injured reserve, Goodwin finished with his highest totals in receptions (27), receiving yards (387), and touchdowns (four) since back in 2019 when he was with the 49ers. Additionally, he averaged a team-best 14.3 yards per reception and picked up 18 first downs on 27 receptions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Scotty Miller
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Miller is another wideout with speed. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. Miller broke out in 2020 with Tom Brady taking over under center for the Bucs, finishing with 33 receptions, 501 yards and three touchdowns. In 2021, he missed time with turf toe. This past season, Miller posted 23 catches for 185 yards.
Tennessee Titans: LB Dylan Cole
Cole is a gritty, hard-nosed linebacker who can provide stoutness and toughness on defense and special teams. Cole recorded 50 total tackles and one sack during the 2022 season. Additionally, he was tied for sixth in special teams tackles (14).
Washington Commanders: EDGE Efe Obada
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Signed to a one-year contract last year, Obada provided a veteran presence and depth inside and outside. He had his second-best NFL season with four sacks in 2022. He also had 26 quarterback pressures and a career-high 14 run stops.