New Chargers GM Joe Hortiz says production, not age or money, will decide who goes

Los Angeles Chargers general manager Joe Hortiz speaks.

The Chargers have 20 unrestricted free agents, including eight who started or played key reserve roles last year.

Center Corey Linsley is expected to retire because of a heart-related ailment.

They have four other accomplished veterans — receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack — whose futures with the team are clouded by salary-cap issues.

General manager Joe Hortiz, speaking at the NFL scouting combine on Tuesday, was asked repeated questions about a roster that could be facing some robust rebuilding.

He insisted he likes all the players who ended the season with the Chargers, a sentiment echoed by coach Jim Harbaugh. Hortiz’s background in scouting lends itself to working with what’s available.

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“I think you find a role for them,” he said. “That’s what we do in scouting. We find the things they can do for the team. We do it in coaching. What can they do well for us? I don’t think you eliminate any player. It’s more how they fit the team.”

The Chargers already have undergone significant alteration since their last game. Hortiz and Harbaugh were hired and the coaching staff was overhauled and expanded.

The new leadership is looking to bolster an ineffective running game and construct a tougher, more physical team. Harbaugh has talked about identifying players who will play hard and as one.

Having spent more than a quarter-century with Baltimore, Hortiz said finding the pieces will be a wide-net proposition for the Chargers’ front office, bringing an approach similar to the one employed by the Ravens.

“You can find success everywhere with players — waiver claims, signing them off of a practice squad, the eight-year pro who's coming in to give you the last couple of years he's got,” Hortiz said. “I think you find that fit and find the player with the right mentality and you go from there.”

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As an example, Baltimore signed guard John Simpson in December 2022, nine days after he was released by Las Vegas. Last year Simpson emerged to start all 17 games for the Ravens.

Finding such low-profile options certainly would benefit the Chargers’ this offseason as Hortiz attempts to negotiate a financial situation that finds the team $25 million beyond the salary cap, according to

The Chargers have until March 13 to be compliant after the league last week set the new ceiling at $255.4 million, an unexpectedly bold bump. The extra space will help but hardly solve the Chargers’ problems.

Saying the swelled cap offers “certainly some flexibility,” Hortiz provided no insight into the Chargers’ plans regarding Allen, Williams, Bosa and Mack, each of who has a cap hit in excess of $32 million.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen celebrates a catch.
Despite his age, wide receiver Keenan Allen had another spectacular season for the Chargers. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“We'll kind of continue to talk through that over the next couple of weeks,” he said, “and have a plan of attack shortly.”

Perhaps notably, Hortiz was asked specifically about making decisions on players who are 30 or older, something that applies to Allen and Mack. Both are coming off stellar seasons despite advancing to the latter stages of their careers.

“You also have to look at the production that they've had and that you expect them to continue to have,” Hortiz said. “I think those are the things you have to weigh.”

The Chargers’ bottom line received some relief recently when Linsley agreed to have his 2024 salary reduced to the veteran's minimum, a move that opened cap space.

“He certainly understood where he was in his current situation, that he was able to help the team still by even not playing,” Hortiz said. “I'm very appreciative of that when we approached him with it.”

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A first-year general manager, Hortiz explained that in his previous front-office jobs with Baltimore, he learned the importance of patience. Then he outlined a project that will stretch well into this year.

“Certainly, we’re going to be taking a draft-centric approach,” Hortiz said. “I believe in that. But free agency, June free agency, signings right before August, tuning the roster during the season …

“The roster should never be where you want it. You’re always trying to move ahead. We’re going to continue to work to add pieces, but we're going to do it throughout the year.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.