With training camp looming, it's time to look at the offseason for the Los Angeles Chargers. The giant question mark that loomed over the franchise entering the offseason was what the team would do with the quarterback position. The team was able to bring Matty Swift back on a 3-year "prove it" deal, allowing the team to stay settled at the position and allow him to show if the improvements he made last year were a flash in the pan, or more characteristic of the player he is becoming. It was thought that the team would part ways with Swift and bring in a rookie signal-caller, but the team decided that stability under center and shoring up other holes with their resources was the right plan of action. Swift, coming off of a career year, showed great signs of progress, but still, under immense pressure seemingly every time he dropped back, he was not without some costly errors.
Key Additions: OT Mario Hill, ILB Bradley Rainey, DE Tyrone Rivers, RB Arturo Pacheco
Key Losses: TE Scott Howard, OT Kenyon Hendricks
The biggest acquisition for the Chargers this season was making a big move to shore up the offensive line. In adding veteran left tackle, Mario Hill, the team addressed their biggest need, replacing the oft-beaten Hendricks with Hill, a stalwart from the Broncos' much-respected offensive line. In doing so, the team gave up a 4th round pick this offseason and a 3rd rounder next year, but the team will recoup a 2023 5th round compensation pick for the loss of Hendricks. The team will pair Hill alongside Noah Barney, in what should finally give the team a solid tandem up front.
Sitting at the #2 spot in the draft, the Chargers could have added star runner, Solomon McLaughlin, to the squad. Instead, they chose to move back twice before grabbing inside linebacker, Bradley Rainey out of Penn State. Rainey becomes the 4th Nittany Lion defender on the team's roster, something that has not gone unnoticed among league insiders. The feeling that the familiarity and camaraderie among the players will help the unit to gel. The Chargers, who have had the league's 32nd-ranked defense for several years, are banking not only on that, but on Rainey's impeccable coverage skills as a linebacker, and feel that pairing him next to veteran Tunch Richardson will help his development, and take the pressure off of him to anchor the middle of the defense.
The Chargers used some of the capital they received in trading down twice to have the flexibility to jump up and grab defensive end, Tyrone Rivers. Rivers, a brash, athletic, talent out of LSU, is seen as the last piece to the Chargers' rebuilding of their front seven. His pass rush skills are adequate, but the team's hope is that he can set the edge, helping in the run game, and do just enough to eat up blocks, allowing Shane Easley an open path to the backfield. Rivers' 6'4" 258-pound frame is perfect for that role, and the team is excited to have him.
It may seem odd to some that a waiver claim could be seen as a key addition, but the Chargers' addition of running back, Arturo Pacheco, formerly of Houston, does deserve mention, as he could potentially wind up as the team's starter, or perhaps, 3rd down back. Pacheco did not seem to get a fair shake in Houston, and while the Texans' front office obviously was not high on him, there were a number of teams that attempted to claim the 4th-year back out of Iowa State. There were even those that inquired with the Chargers about trading for him after the claim was executed. Pacheco will be given an opportunity to compete for carries in training camp with Brannon Austin and Frederick Chacon.
The Chargers had a few other additions this offseason, but none that are expected to contribute as starters. The team did pick up a blocking tight end in Nate Linsley, that should help their run game. They also added a 50-catch receiver in free agency in the form of Darryl McGlockton, who could see some action for the team in multiple receiver sets. The Chargers were applauded in drafting quarterback, Elijah McManus, out of Kentucky in the 5th round. He's seen as a developmental prospect that fits the team's scheme. The team is also happy with their addition of Mendy Morrow. Morrow, a center that has some starting experience in the league in his time with Buffalo, gives the team a quality backup, but also some insurance in case incumbent, Martin Terry, decides to walk after the 2023 season.
It is hard to talk about the Chargers offseason without getting a little teary-eyed, for those that have followed the team for years. The Bolts parted ways with tight end Scott Howard. Over the past several years, Howard, at times, had been the only Charger offensive player that opposing teams respected. Not just respected, but in many cases, feared. Howard had been a one-man wrecking crew, piling up eye-catching numbers in receptions and yards, despite frequent double-coverage. The future Hall of Famer was dealt to Seattle in a move that freed cap space, brought back some valuable picks, and allows the team to hand the baton to Damian Mason. Mason, the 6'7" freak of nature, who has been billed by Chargers' management as the "Next (very) Big Thing", spent two years learning from Howard, and brings his size, leaping ability, and excellent hands to the position.
The net result of their draft day maneuvers, combined with the Howard and Hill trades, leaves the Chargers with three valuable second round picks in next year's draft, despite missing their third rounder. The team also has several additional late-round picks, including the compensation pick (Hendricks).
The Chargers are not a team of tremendous depth, but the feeling is that the offensive line was the biggest thing holding back the offense, and that the addition of Hill, along with the continued development of younger players up front like Barney, Anthony Krause, Justin Way, and Robert Grant, the team's line should be markedly improved. Defensively, the team believes that it filled their two biggest needs with the addition of Rainey and Rivers, and has a bevy of young players on the defense that are all developing together, which should lead to a much better showing.