6 players most likely to have contracts reworked by Chargers

The Chargers enter the 2023 offseason $19.8 million over the salary cap, per OverTheCap, the fifth-highest payroll in the league.

To clear space to sign a rookie class and free agents, as well as extend eligible players like quarterback Justin Herbert, LA will have to do some money maneuvering.

These six players are the most likely to have their contracts touched by general manager Tom Telesco.

EDGE Khalil Mack

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Most likely outcome: Restructure

The Chargers can save up to $10,867,500 against the 2023 cap if they rework Mack’s contract to convert part of his $17.2 million base salary into a signing bonus. It would be the third time the former Defensive Player of the Year’s contract has been restructured on his current deal. The Bears converted $13 million of his 2019 salary to a signing bonus to clear $10.4 million of space and then converted $15 million of his 2021 salary to a signing bonus and added a void year to his contract to create an additional $12 million. Players do have to agree to restructures, so the Chargers may not recoup all $10,867,500 of value this offseason.

LA could also save more money by trading or releasing Mack, but his play in 2022 and his leadership role on the team render those outcomes extremely unlikely. An extension could also save up to $17.4 million against the 2023 cap, depending on the structure of the new contract. Mack is already signed through 2024, his age-33 season.

EDGE Joey Bosa

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Most likely outcome: Restructure

Bosa is owed a gargantuan cap charge of $31 million in 2023, the highest on the team as a result of his five year, $135 million extension signed in 2020. 2023, however, is currently the highest cap hit of the contract, which runs through 2025. Bosa has zero guaranteed money left on this deal after the 2023 season, making a restructure to push some of his $24 million guaranteed to 2024 and 2025 a seemingly surefire option. A restructure saves up to $15,223,333 in 2023 cap space, and gives Bosa more long-term stability by guaranteeing money for the remainder of his contract. (Signing bonus money created by restructures can be spread over a maximum of five seasons.)

Releasing Bosa does nothing for the Chargers, but trading him would net $17 million in cap savings. Trading a franchise cornerstone in the middle of a playoff window, however, feels unlikely. An extension could net up to $18,268,000, but Bosa still has three seasons on his current deal, which runs through his age 30 season.

WR Keenan Allen

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Most likely outcome: Restructure

Allen’s contract, and what the Chargers elect to do with it, is one of the more interesting storylines of the offseason for the team. The 30-year-old is signed through 2024, but carries a cap hit of $21.7 million in 2023. Releasing him outright pre-June 1 would save $14.8 million; post-June 1 would save $17.5 million. A trade saves $16.3 million and would likely return mid-round compensation somewhat similar to the Amari Cooper trade to Cleveland last offseason.

The problem with all of those outcomes is that Keenan Allen would no longer be on the Chargers. We’ve seen what the offense looks like without Allen on the field already. Granted, the team has already fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and theoretically any new hire would be able to keep the offense moving without Allen on the field. But Justin Herbert clearly trusts Allen and Mike Williams far more than anyone else on the offense, and a move away from Allen would likely need to come with a commensurate one towards another proven receiver.

This is why ultimately, I think the most likely outcome is that the Chargers rework Allen’s contract, which can save them up to $8,917,500 if he’s restructured or up to $14,268,000 if he’s extended. I lean towards a restructure despite the lower savings because Allen has missed at least one game in each of the last three seasons, and the team may not want to tie themselves to a potential albatross contract that keeps Allen in LA beyond his age 32 season until they have more information about his long-term health and physical decline.

C Corey Linsley

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Most likely outcome: Restructure

Linsley turns 32 before the start of the 2023 season, part of the reason why the guaranteed money on the five year, $62.5 million contract the Chargers gave him prior to 2021 has all been paid out. Releasing Linsley before June 1 or trading him would net LA $5.3 million in space, while waiting until after June 1 would bump that number up to $10.5 million. But again, those moves would mean Linsley is no longer on the team, and LA lacks a clear option to take over for him should they decide to move in a new direction.

Linsley has been among the best centers in the league when healthy, even as he crosses the age 30 barrier. He’s a key reason the offensive line has improved around Justin Herbert, which has served as a launchpad for the young QB’s development. Moving away from him when the offensive line is just beginning to coalesce seems like a recipe for disaster.

So, we return to the restructure, which can save the Chargers up to $6,223,333 in Linsley’s case. There’s no guaranteed money to be paid in the remaining three seasons of Linsley’s current contract, so converting part of his $10.5 million base salary to signing bonus and spreading it out over the next three seasons won’t hamstring the Chargers much in the long run. An extension is also possible, and saves LA up to $7,468,000, but that would tie Linsley to the team beyond his age 34 season, a risky proposition.

CB Michael Davis

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Most likely outcome: Extension

Circled as a likely cap casualty following the 2021 season and the signing of JC Jackson, Davis faces a much different offseason in 2022 than we thought he would coming into the season. After Jackson was injured, Davis stepped in and played like LA’s best corner as the defense improved, earning every cent of his $9.4 million cap hit. That cap charge remains the same in 2023 but does not contain the $5 million guaranteed money it did in 2022.

With Jackson likely sidelined for part of the 2023 season as he continues to rehab from a ruptured patellar tendon, Davis is going to be a starter to at least open next season. Extending him saves up to $4,736,000 in 2023 space and rewards him for excellent play in 2022 and keeps a 2023 starter in the fold beyond next season. Once Jackson returns, it also gives the Chargers a nasty trio of Jackson, Davis, and Asante Samuel Jr. to rotate on the boundaries and work matchups into their favor.

Releasing or trading Davis saves the team $7.4 million, which is why it seemed like a foregone conclusion before the season. But that’s why they play the games. Now, it seems much likelier that the corner will stick around.

G Matt Feiler

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Most likely outcome: Release

Feiler is largely the victim of circumstance here. After a stellar 2021, his play dropped off a bit in 2022, which you could argue is because he was playing with Jamaree Salyer and Will Clapp on either side of him at times instead of All-Pros Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley. Salyer performed admirably at left tackle, enough that he’s likely in the long-term plans for LA. Still, he’s not going to be playing tackle with Slater returning from injury and Trey Pipkins likely being re-signed.

The Chargers are also up against the books, and releasing Feiler saves $6.5 million, compared to zero savings possible from restructuring his contract. LA could extend him, saving $4,336,000, but they have a replacement waiting in the wings, and Feiler’s play is probably not worthy of a long-term deal.

That leaves a release as the likeliest outcome, opening up a spot on the starting line for Salyer and gaining $6.5 million toward the 2023 balance sheet. Of all the potential moves on the list, this feels the most inevitable. Feiler will catch on with a new team, likely at a lower price. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t fit the Chargers any longer.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire