Chargers focus on defense in NFL Free Agency
March 17, 2022
The Los Angeles Chargers started free agency with $57.5 million dollars in salary cap space and a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL in 2021. The Chargers were 31st against the run in 2021 and last in third down defense in the NFL. It was obvious to the Chargers and NFL critics that the Chargers had to fix their defense.
The Chargers started free agency off with a trade for a star outside linebacker Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears. The Chargers traded a second-round pick in the upcoming 2022 NFL draft and a 6th round pick in the 2023 NFL draft to acquire Mack, a very small price to pay for a superstar defensive player. The Chargers agreed to pick up Mack’s full $63 million dollar contract for the next three years.
This is a huge trade for the Chargers. Mack was the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year with the Oakland Raiders. He is a 6-time Pro Bowl linebacker, three years with the Raiders and three years with the Bears. He made the National Football League 2010s All-Decade Team, as one of the best players of the decade.
In his eight-year career, Mack has 76.5 sacks, 23 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions and 2 defensive touchdowns. Mack can set the edge in the run game and is considered a terrific teammate. He does not take plays off and that will be an important trait for a defense that lacked consistent intensity last season.
The Chargers used their $57.5 million in salary cap space for the 2022 season to fit Mack’s salary of $17.75 million in for 2022. Mack, who turned 31 in February, has at least three good seasons left in him. The Bears needed salary cap space for the 2023 season, and they wanted at least a second-round pick for Mack in the 2022 NFL draft. They got both from the Chargers.
The Chargers followed up on the Mack trade with another huge acquisition, agreeing to an $82.5 million, five-year contract with cornerback J.C. Jackson of the Patriots. The contract comes with a signing bonus of $25 million and has $40 million in guaranteed money. The salary cap number for the first season is just $8 million. Jackson was considered the top free agent cornerback on the market. Jackson was a Pro Bowl starter in 2021 at cornerback, and was also second team All-Pro.
Jackson, who is just 26 years of age, intercepted 25 passes in his four seasons with the Patriots, 17 the past two seasons. He is a playmaker, something the Charger defense has needed for a long time. The addition of Mack and Jackson gives the Charger defense four Pro Bowl players on defense, plus some nice young talent in cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., linebacker Kenneth Murray and linebacker Drue Tranquill.
Mack is excited about the future with his new teammates. “When you talk about Joey Bosa, Derwin James, Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr., all of these different intangibles, and these guys are very explosive players and explosive playmakers. I’m looking forward to it,” said Mack. “Like I said, that’s the easy part, to talk about it. But I’m an action guy. That’s what I’m looking forward to, putting in the work and winning ball games, ultimately.”
The Chargers were not done, as their next moves were to strengthen the run defense. They added defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day of the Los Angeles Rams to a reported three-year, $24 million contract with $15 million guaranteed and then signed New York Giants defensive tackle Austin Johnson to a contract is worth up to $14 million over two years, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Both players are good versus the run, an area that is a huge offseason priority for the Chargers. The NFL confirmed that the Chargers had picked up four additional compensatory draft picks for the 2022 NFL draft, which will give the Chargers a total of ten draft picks in the upcoming draft. The Chargers will have two picks in the sixth round and four picks in the seventh round
General Manager Tom Telesco and his staff did an excellent job of clearing salary cap space to produce these acquisitions, while still holding onto and accumulating draft picks. They have set the team up well for the 2022 season in the highly competitive AFC West.