Chargers add depth to the roster through Free Agency

General manager Joe Hortiz of the Los Angeles Chargers has had a very busy first week of the 2024 league season that started on March 13th. Hortiz cut one starting wide receiver, traded another starting wide receiver, restructured the contracts of two defensive stars, cut a one-time Pro Bowl starting linebacker and replaced him with another one-time Pro Bowl starting linebacker. In the process, he put the Chargers in a better place for free agency.

All the moves were done to get the Chargers under the NFL mandated salary cap number of $255.4 million per team and to free up salary cap space in order to add depth to the roster. The Chargers have had a top-heavy roster and need to add depth. They have started to do that under Hortiz and the new Chargers management team.

Hortiz has managed to keep the stars on defense on the roster and that should be very helpful to new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter. Khalil Mack, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker and Joey Bosa, a four-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker, are two of the best pass rushers in the NFL and they are both returning on restructured contracts.

Along with second-year linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu, the Chargers will have arguably the best trio of edge rushers in the NFL. The Chargers will still have three-time Pro Bowl strong safety Derwin James in the secondary along with free safety Alohi Gilman, who will return on a new two-year contract. Starting cornerback Asante Samuel Jr returns for his fourth season with the Chargers.

Hortiz has focused on plugging in holes on the defensive side through free agency, adding a pair of inside linebackers and a run-stuffing defensive tackle. Hortiz signed former Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman to replace Eric Kendricks, who was let go to save $6.5 million dollars against the salary cap.

Perryman spent his first six seasons with the Chargers and was an effective middle linebacker for the team, but he did struggle with injuries. He was selected by the Chargers in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft. He made the Pro Bowl at linebacker with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021 with 154 tackles. Perryman signed a one-year deal for a reported $3 million dollars.

The Chargers also added linebacker Troy Dye, who spent his first four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Dye was productive on special teams for the Vikings and started eight games for the Vikings. Dye played his high school football at Norco high school and his college ball at Oregon, where he was a teammate of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. Dye signed a one-year contract with the Chargers.

The Chargers signed defensive tackle Poona Ford to a one-year contract. The terms were undisclosed. Ford has started 64 games in his career, all with the Seattle Seahawks, and has 8.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss. Ford was the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2017 at Texas and Pro Football Focus (PFF) after the 2021 season listed him as an above average starter with the Seahawks.

The addition of Perryman, Dye, and Ford helps solidify the middle of the defense and add some depth in that area. The Chargers have some young players at defensive tackle and inside linebacker and the addition of these veterans should help, along with any players added through the draft. The Chargers will probably look to the draft for additional help at cornerback.

On the offensive side, the Chargers signed center Bradley Bozeman, who started 28 straight games at center the past two seasons with the Carolina Panthers and started at center and left guard for the Baltimore Ravens from 2019 through 2021. Bozeman was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens, where Hortiz was working at.

Bozeman will start at center with the expected retirement of Corey Linsley. At this point in time, the starting offensive line appears to be Rashawn Slater at left tackle, Zion Johnson at left guard, Bozeman at center, Jamaree Salyer at right guard, and Trey Pipkins at right tackle. The Chargers will likely add competition and depth through the draft.

The Chargers have replaced starting tight end Gerald Everett at tight end with free agents Will Dissly and Hayden Hurst. Dissly is a definite upgrade as an in-line blocking tight end and Hurst was a first-round pick at tight end for the Ravens in 2018. Hurst, Bozeman, and recently signed running back Gus Edwards were all teammates with the Ravens, and they were all selected in the 2018 NFL draft.

Dissly was very excited about playing for the Chargers and about the Chargers new practice facility in the beach-town of El Segundo.

"It's an opportunity," Dissly said. "A new adventure, you know? I'm familiar with where we're moving. I'm not quite there yet, but El Segundo is going to be an awesome place to spend time. Hopefully if I wear sunscreen appropriately, I'll get a small tan [laughter] and play some smashmouth football. Getting to know the coaching staff, [Run Game Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach] Andy Bischoff and [Offensive Coordinator] Greg [Roman] and kind of the plans that we have. An attitude-based organization. We're going to play some good football. I'm excited to be part of it."

Smashmouth football and the Chargers are not terms that usually go together when you are talking about the Chargers. It feels like Hortiz and head coach Jim Harbaugh are putting something together that is going to be different and possibly a ton of fun for Charger players and fans in El Segundo and Inglewood. If it doesn't work out, they will at least be able to work on their tans in El Segundo.


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