PFF: Current projected contracts for Chargers’ 2024 internal free agents

The Chargers will enter March with 27 internal free agents.

Of that group, three of Los Angeles’ players received contract projections from PFF’s Top 200 free agent ranking.

Brad Spielberger has current contract valuations available for Austin Ekeler, Alohi Gilman, and Gerald Everett.

RB Austin Ekeler

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2 years, $13.5 million ($8M guaranteed)

By this projection, Ekeler would receive a slight pay bump over his current annual average value of $6 million. But this probably wasn’t the type of contract that the seven-year Chargers vet expected entering his contract year in 2023.

Ekeler’s projection is fifth amongst running backs in this free agency list. He trails Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, and Josh Jacobs on their future projected deals. The former Western Colorado product is the 56th-ranked overall player in PFF’s class.

This contract structure seems a lot like a heavily guaranteed first season followed by a less-than-guaranteed second season. Former Chargers’ back Melvin Gordon signed a two-year deal worth up to $16 million in 2020.

While it wouldn’t be a steep price to pay for the Chargers’ workhorse back, I see Joe Hortiz starting fresh in the backfield. Batlimore’s background as a franchise doesn’t include paying running backs significant capital outside of Ray Rice’s initial contract extension for five years, $35 million. In the more modern RB era, Mark Ingram is the most significant the Ravens have given out at around $5 million AAV for three seasons.

This is also the salary that is most likely to net the Chargers a compensatory draft selection. Keep an eye on the moves the Chargers make between now and April in that regard.

TE Gerald Everett

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1 year, $5.5 million ($4M guaranteed)

Everett’s two-year contract with the Chargers comes to a close when the new league year opens. For the third time in his career, he’ll test the free agent market.

As Everett approaches 30, his projection makes sense. He’s likely a year-to-year player at this stage of his career as opposed to an offensive cornerstone. But the receiving production for his Chargers’ tenure is nothing to snuff at. He’s put up 109 receptions, 966 yards, and seven touchdowns in his two Chargers seasons.

Outside of Dalton Schultz, who PFF values at a contract worth $11 million per season, there are not many significant upgrades available in the class. And even in the case of Schultz, I don’t necessarily think the juice is worth the squeeze for how much more he costs.

What will be more important than the dollars and cents figure on an Everett contract is whether Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman see him as the TE1 archetype for their physical offense. If the answer is no, Everett may want to seek an opportunity to be the lead tight end in another team’s offense.

S Alohi Gilman

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1 year, $2.67 million ($1M guaranteed)

Gilman’s market value seems like a product of being a smaller name in a relatively loaded safety market. Nine safeties in PFF’s Top 150 have yearly AAV evaluations above $5 million, including the likes of Kyle Dugger and Antoine Winfield.

Gilman is projected to get the lowest salary out of any safety on the list, even when considering those he’s ranked ahead of based on 2023 production. Perhaps there’s also a certain Derwin James factor at play here, with leaguewide front office personnel paying more attention to his usage than the aforementioned Notre Dame product.

The ballhawk skills and physicality Gilman played with in 2023 cannot be undervalued by the organization. He is always in the vicinity of turnovers, actively trying to flip possessions. And his aggressive play pays off for him more than it doesn’t.

If the Chargers can get Gilman in his prime at this low valuation, I think they have to bring him back despite coaching and other personnel changes. In his age 26 season, Gilman was PFF’s seventh highest-graded player at his position and was eighth in WAR amongst safeties.

With a cap sheet that will be largely unfavorable in 2024, the Chargers have to take advantage of value when they find it.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire