With free agency fairly well wrapped up, the Chargers have already had a successful offseason. The team had a number of big question marks entering the offseason, and has addressed several of them. Just a few short weeks ago, the team had no quarterback under contract (other than career backup Elijah Moffett), did not have anyone at the center position who had ever snapped a ball in the pros, and had dismissed their starting left tackle, with no succession plan in place.
Say what you will about Matty Swift, but he did just set career highs in every passing category, while throwing for the 3rd-most yards, 4th-most completions, and 8th-most touchdowns in the league. While he did throw 17 interceptions in 2022, his interception rate was lower than guys like Ryan Clark, Taylor Heiden, Alex Leshoure, Norris Brooksheer, and Tanner Bowman. The Chargers were able to extend him for three seasons, in a very cap-friendly deal, that allows them to continue to add pieces around him, and hopefully finally give him the protection and running game that every quarterback deserves. Matty will either excel and his contract will look like a bargain, or he'll struggle and the team will be looking for his replacement sooner rather than later. His deal does allow the team to draft a successor and cut Swift loose in the near future.
The other key retention that the Chargers had was the transition tagging of Center, Martin Terry. While not a Pro Bowler, a team can't build a strong line without at least a serviceable center. Terry is a top-half of the league center, and bringing him back was a must for the team. Sure, they would have preferred to ink an extension with him, but it was vital to at least bring him back for 2023. Perhaps if the team turns things around a bit, he'll be more inclined to stick around.
Speaking of the center position, the Chargers aggressively went out and added a player that has starting experience, that could possibly replace Terry should the veteran decide to walk away, or get hurt this season. Mendy Morrow is a young player with potential that the team identified as someone they had to have. GM Pumph has this to say on the addition of Morrow:
"Mendy's a guy who could step in if needed, and gives us a little insurance in case Martin decides to go elsewhere. Having depth at center is important in this league, and to be honest, it might be the hardest position in the league to fill right now, so getting a player like Mendy for just two late picks was a no-brainer for me".
The biggest move the Chargers made this offseason was a trade for Broncos' tackle, Mario Hill. The team gave up a 4th round pick this season, and their 3rd next season to acquire the stalwart left tackle. Said Pumph of the Hill trade:
"Coming into this offseason, beefing up the offensive line was something we felt we had to continue to do. We have been trying to focus on that in recent drafts by taking guys like Noah Barney in the first last year, and Anthony Krause and Justin Way in the high second round the last two years. But this trade should immediately make a big impact on our pass protection and ability to run the football. This trade allows us to look elsewhere with our draft capital, while really strengthening what has been the team's biggest weakness."
The Chargers had a quiet free agency signing period, completing just one deal, but not for a lack of trying. The Bolts were actively pursuing the top Guard of the free agency class, Kevin Levy, but bowed out when the price tag became too cumbersome. The team did ink free agent wide receiver, Darryl McGlockton, formerly of the Las Vegas Raiders, who caught 50 passes in 2022. McGlockton is seen as a depth piece for the team, who could compete for the number four or five wide receiver position.
In addition to the Morrow and Hill trades, the Chargers have been active in various other trade talks. The team sent linebacker Bryan Jones to the Colts for a 2024 6th round pick and safety Steven Elliott to the Rams for another 2024 6th rounder. However, it is the trades that have not been finalized that have kept the Chargers in the news. The team has been fielding offers on future Hall of Famer, Scott Howard, and seems intent on moving him.
"Scott has meant so much to this franchise", remarked Pumph, "but as good as he has been, and continues to be, I have that much confidence that our number two guy [Damian Mason] can fill that role sufficiently, and allow us to address some other needs". He followed up by saying, "I know our fans, and heck, even our coaching staff won't be happy if we lose Scott, but we have some other holes to fill, and I firmly believe that tight end will still be a position of strength for us, even if we lost Scott." The team is rumored to have multiple suitors for Howard, but is patiently waiting for those teams to assess their offseason plans. Pumph closed the Howard discussion with, "The good thing is, we don't have to do a thing. While I do want to try to fill some other holes, keeping Scott Howard in a Chargers' jersey is not a bad thing at the end of the day".
The Chargers have also looked at trading the likes of defensive tackle Andrew Pearson, cornerback Kevin Potts, fullback John Bills, offensive tackle Charlie Ellis, linebacker Paul Floyd, safety Robert Shipp, and punter Nick Baldwin, among others. The team reported that some of those players have been involved in talks, while moving some of the others may just be wishful thinking.
Looking ahead to the draft, the Chargers currently hold the #2 overall selection, a pick that they seem content to keep, but would not turn down the chance to talk about moving down. "This draft board sets up really well for us", remarked Pumph, "unlike years past, we could pick #2 or #10, and I feel that almost no matter what anyone else took in front of us, could be happy with whoever is sitting there when we pick. Our needs and the top players available just seems to mesh pretty well. We'll get one heck of a football player at #2, but we'd also be very happy to move down and collect some other assets and take whoever falls to us. Everything will just depend on what offers might be out there".
Despite Swift's signing, the team seems destined to look at a quarterback in this draft, with several quality signal-callers available. The team also has needs at defensive end, running back, offensive line, and linebacker, and could also look to improve their defensive backfield. With the draft board the way that it is, the Chargers are certain to be able to fill a need almost no matter where they pick. If the team remains at #2, the most-likely selections would be Auburn quarterback, Marcus Black, Rice quarterback, Eric McLean, Alabama defensive end, Deontre Graham, or Texas Tech Running Back, Solomon McLaughlin.
The Chargers have retained six selections in the upcoming draft thus far. The team holds their picks near the top of Rounds one through three, the Cardinals and Patriots' picks near the top of the fifth round, and the Chargers' own seventh round pick. With 57 players currently under contract, the team has announced that they are mostly looking for future picks, but could easily cut a few players or move some players to the practice squad if they were to add additional picks in the upcoming draft.
Los Angeles is hoping to improve on their 2022 record of 3-13. It feels like this team is close to turning a corner, but they need to continue to stock the roster with quality young players, and continue to build around their scheme. Bringing Matty Swift back for another trial will help with the cohesion on the offensive side of the ball, but the team still had the 32nd-ranked scoring defense, and was 31st on 3rd down, 31st in yards allowed, 30th in sacks, and tied for next-to-last in interceptions. Some say that a better offense will take pressure off of the defense. The team still has their work cut out on both sides of the ball if they are going to turn this team into a winner, but some of the foundation pieces have been laid, and the team will look to continue adding to that.