NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
In recent years, everybody has been focused on the Denver Broncos as the lone legitimate AFC Super Bowl threat from out west. The Chiefs have even gotten’ some love in recent years as a potential sleeper as well. Oakland.. eh, no need to mention.
However the way I see it, based on a nightmare cap situation in Denver combined with a (in my opinion) vastly overrated roster in Kansas City (losing Eric Berry is a killer), I believe San Diego will rise up as the AFC West Champs this year.
San Diego is in quite the unique situation. For one, they don’t know precisely where on earth they will be residing in the next few years. Are they moving to L.A.? Did the Rams beat them to the punch by announcing stadium plans in Inglewood? Will they be sharing a stadium with their in division bitter rival being the Oakland Raiders?
What about their future plans at quarterback? Phillip Rivers’ contract is up after this season. Yikes.
Not exactly saying Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers are on the same level here. They have won two combined Super Bowls, both of which belonging to Big Ben. However, who’s the better quarterback?
Wherever you fall into that argument, the separation between the two isn’t major – and Big Ben just signed a massive 4 year deal averaging $21.85M per year. Can the Chargers afford to keep Rivers? Or a better question, can they afford to let him go? Two major question marks surround this potential 2015 Super Bowl contender like a dark rain cloud in that perfect San Diego weather.
Since the Super Bowl
The Chargers – overall – have slightly improved their roster since Free Agency in my eyes. The Chargers were able to do something New England could not : sign their top priority UFA who happened to be a cornerback – Brandon Flowers.
Flowers was a steal for the Chargers from in division rival Kansas City, and will prove to be a key cog on the team going forward. They paid fair market value for his talents as well in my eyes, giving the #1 cornerback a 4 year $36.4M deal. Per comparison, he is the 13th highest paid cornerback in the league right now in per year average money, behind the likes of Leon Hall, Johnathon Joseph, and Byron Maxwell.
Phillip Rivers may also have a shot of standing upright this year for once, as San Diego resigned OT King Dunlap as well as poaching OG Orlando Franklin from the Broncos.
Offensively, there will be some new toys to play with. Ryan Mathews and Eddie Royal, both relative contributors last year signed with Philadelphia and Chicago, respectively. Enter Jacoby Jones and one of my favorite signings of the off season, former Bills stand-out Stevie Johnson.
Patriots’ fans were up in arms about Johnson. Simply put, San Diego made the better financial offer. I have a few thoughts on this situation.
To compare, Stevie Johnson got slightly more money compared to Brandon Lafell last season. Johnson received a 3 year $10.5M offer, compared to Lafell’s 3 year $9M deal. I’m not sure of the exact numbers of the Patriots’ offer, but I would be surprised if it surpassed Lafell’s 2014 deal.
Another thought: Aaron Dobson. *Ducks for cover to avoid the fruit thrown my way.
But seriously, I am not closing the book on Dobson – yet. The 23 year old 6’3 200 lbs former 59th pick in the draft has been lost in the shuffle of recent years. When Dobson finally saw the field in Green Bay last year (6 weeks after BUF, his last appearance), the former Marshall stand-out was already hurt and done for the year by the time I returned from the cooler getting a beer after kickoff.
Still, he provides that “big body receiver” Patriots’ fans have screamed for since Randy Moss, and could make the offense devastating to opposing defenses. We all talk about how next year is a make-or-break year for Dobson. Trust me people, he knows that too.
Last thought on Stevie Johnson – an insanely deep draft class at wide receiver. Last year may have produced more stars than this one will, maybe, but there is no question this is the deepest receiver class I have ever graded.
I currently have a first round grade on eight receivers. In order, I have White, Cooper, Green-Beckham, Parker, Agholor, Perriman, Strong, and Smith (Funchess is a TE in my book). There are also many talented receivers post the top eight, so sit tight Patriots’ fans. A receiver will come eventually.
Some other losses for the Chargers include LB Andrew Gachkar (DAL), CB Shareece Wright (SF) and S Marcus Gilchrist (NYJ). Seyi Ajirotutu, Ronnie Brown, Jeromey Clary, and Dwight Freeney all remained unsigned.
A key addition not yet talked about to help combat the loss of some of the defensive backs (Wright, Gilchrist) , up and down but ultra-talented former New Orleans Saints’ cornerback Patrick Robinson. Robinson is the classic low risk high reward signing (just a 1 year, $2M deal).
Draft Needs : Offensive play makers at any position, OT, C, DL
Kind of kidding when I say offensive play makers at any position, but not really. Lucky for San Diego this class is littered with receivers who could help from day one, as well as some solid running backs in the middle rounds to help combat the loss of Ryan Mathews.
The Chargers only have 6 picks in the 2015 draft, 0 of which are compensatory.
At pick 17, I’ve seen a lot of buzz about an OT of some sort. I also salivate every time I watch Todd Gurley game film. I do remember the last time the Chargers used a first round pick on a running back. It didn’t exactly work out so well.
That running back may have been very frustrating to Chargers’ fans, but even more so to Fantasy Football owners such as myself. He may go down as the most frustrating fantasy football player of all time, costing me a few winners’ pools along the way. I’m sure he (Ryan Mathews) will now run for 1,200 yards somehow for Chip Kelly. At the worst, he is now playing mainly 1 o’clock games and won’t hold us owners captive for 3 hours. Thank goodness.
OT is more of the pressing need, especially if Phillip Rivers has any aspirations of making it through his next contract. Therefore, no fault at all if the Chargers go the La’El Collins, Ereck Flowers or T.J. Clemmings route. I don’t really think Andrus Peat would be the best play here, as S.D. will be looking for a guy who can play right away.
But boy…I would have a difficult time passing up on Gurley, who is my highest rated running back since Adrian Peterson. I’m happy to see his draft buzz start up again, as if not for the injury I think would be a lock for the top 15.
Other first round options could even be Texas standout DT Malcom Brown or Florida State’s DT Eddie Goldman. I’ll get into the lack of pass rush in a second, but the Chargers per-rush defense was an abysmal 29th in the league last season. Brown or Goldman could help change that, and quick.
No secret here, the Chargers need some edge rush help in a big way. It has been the kryptonite that hasn’t allowed them to get over the hump of Peyton and Brady.
Did you know – The Chargers leader in sacks last year tallied 4.5 sacks. Wowza.
Could Arik Armstead from Oregon still be on the board in round two? What about former Virginia Cavalier Eli Harold. Could LSU’s Danielle Hunter fit? Possibly. I could go on and name all the versatile potential 3-4 guys, but you get the point.
I’d add a receiver or two if I was running the show. If you haven’t heard the name by now than you haven’t truly followed the draft that closely. ECU’s Justin Hardy could be a real nice middle round fit. What about a Phillip Dorsett (The U) or Tyler Lockett (KSU) to add some BOOM explosion to the offense.
And don’t forget about my guy, Vince Mayle!
Finally, If Gurley isn’t the play in round 1 (which he probably won’t be) a middle round running back will be crucial. There is no guarantee Donald Brown will be around too much longer, so the Chargers need bodies in the backfield – fast. I would consider a double-dip here. What about a David Cobb (Minn) or a Tevin Coleman (Ind), and then comeback with my second favorite underrated player in the draft behind Mayle, Josh Robinson! Now we’re doing big things.
The Chargers are talented. They have their quarterback (for now at least), and seem poised to make a run at the AFC West which has been dominated by John Elway’s crew of late.
Depending on how they play the draft combined with their nice free agency period thus far, I expect the Chargers in the playoffs next year – hosting a playoff game.
Next time on Eyes on the Competition, we will check out Vince Wilfork’s new stomping grounds : the Houston Texans.