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The Los Angeles Chargers were a team in transition in 2020, as the club wrapped up the regular season on the outside looking in for the postseason, wrapping up the year 7-9.
Following their regular season finale, the team parted ways with head coach Anthony Lynn after four seasons, as Lynn and his staff compiled a record of 33-31.
There were some good times, the high point being back in 2018 when the club went 12-4, and made it to the AFC Divisional Playoff round before bowing out to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
The last two seasons have been struggles, as the club has been under .500 each season going 5-11 in 2019 and 7-9 this season.
The club’s high point in 2020 was the play of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who the team took 6th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Herbert played well, going 6-9 as a starter, throwing for 4336 yards with 31 scores and just 10 interceptions, something that is rare for a rookie thrower.
While the QB spot is settled for a long time to come for the Bolts, the coaching spot was given to Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, a young 38-year-old coach who is quickly moving up the ranks in the NFL, and now will get a chance to run the show for the Chargers.
As the Bolts enter the offseason, they have plenty of work to do in the front office to make their roster better to get back on track in 2021.
The club has a whopping 29 players set to be free agents this offseason, but only 12 of those players are either restricted free agents or exclusive-rights free agents.
The big question will be – will the team go out and look for players from other teams to spend on, or will they look to bring back their own players for next season?
The Chargers do have $19.67 million in projected salary cap space, a solid number that should allow them flexability to make moves.
Here’s the list of the 29 free agents for the Bolts entering the free agency signing period next month:
TE Stephen Anderson, 28
RB Kalen Ballage, 26
G Dan Feeney, 27
TE Virgil Green, 33
G Ryan Groy, 31
TE Hunter Henry, 27
G Forrest Lamp, 27
C Mike Pouncey, 32
TE Matt Sokol, 26
T Tyree St. Louis, 24
QB Tyrod Taylor, 32
T Sam Tevi, 27
G Cole Toner, 26
S Jahleel Addae, 31
K Michael Badgley, 26
CB Tevaughn Campbell, 28
LB Cole Christiansen, 24
CB Michael Davis, 26
CB Brandon Facyson, 27
DE Joe Gaziano, 25
LB Melvin Ingram, 32
LB Malik Jefferson, 25
S Rayshawn Jenkins, 27
P Ty Long, 28
LB Denzel Perryman, 29
DT Isaac Rochell, 26
DT Damion Square, 32
LB Nick Vigil, 28
CB Jaylen Watkins, 30
Offseason Outlook: The biggest priority on the Chargers roster is tight end Hunter Henry, who last season caught 60 passes for 613 yards with four scores.
This coming off 2019 when he had five touchdowns with 652 yards on 55 grabs. Bringing back Henry is the biggest decision internally that the Bolts need to make, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Los Angeles get a deal done before he hits the free agent market.
If the two sides can’t get a deal done, the Bolts can retain him for 2021 by putting the franchise tag on him again, though his $10.6 million salary would rise significantly.
Upgrading the offensive line in 2021 is another priority for the Bolts. The team last offseason made a deal with the Carolina Panthers, trading for right guard Trai Turner.
In return the Bolts sent aging lineman Russell Okung to the Panthers. Turner had a tough 2020, as despite coming off of four straight Pro Bowl appearances, he spent a good part of the season injured, and due to make $11.5 million next year he might be a cap causality for the Chargers.
As far as the Bolts O-line goes, starters Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney are both set to hit the free agent market in March, same goes for guards Ryan Groy and Sam Tevi.
One player who is likely gone to another team is center Mike Pouncey, as he will be a free agent and many predict he will leave sunny Los Angeles.
While improving the offensive line is a key, the team also could use more offensive playmakers, as the club could use a big name to help out Herbert in his second season.
The Chargers ranked 18th of 32 teams in terms of points for in 2020, scoring 24 points per game. In terms of stopping teams, the club was 23rd of 32 teams allowing points – giving up 26.6 points per contest.
With the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos both bent on looking to improve in the AFC West in 2021 and the Chiefs looking to make it to their third straight Super Bowl, the Bolts can’t afford to take a step back this upcoming season.