The San Diego Chargers have a whopping 20 unrestricted free agents who will be free to sign with other teams in March. Since the Chargers were a disappointment in 2012, a lot of people think most of these free agents aren’t worth re-signing.
Of course, the Chargers can’t simple let 20 players hit the street because that would create far too many roster holes to fill. What makes a lot more sense is to re-sign a handful of quality players to make sure there are bodies and then try to upgrade with other free agents and through the draft.
There are specifically five players the Chargers should re-sign in free agency, all of which played reasonably well in 2012 and have potential to be better in 2013.
Despite struggles by the offensive line, Louis Vasquez had a strong year. Vasquez graded out at the Chargers’ best player according to Pro Football Focus. Aside from Philip Rivers and Nick Hardwick, Vasquez was the only other player to start every game.
The Chargers can’t slap five new offensive linemen together and hope to have better success than they did in 2013. Chemistry and communication are key for offensive lines, so keeping the few solid ones the Chargers have is important.
Aubrayo Franklin is a big human.
The Chargers were a pretty good team against the run, and they have the duo of Cam Thomas and Aubrayo Franklin to thank for anchoring the middle of the defense. Franklin is a free agent, and the Chargers should bring him back so he can continue his strong play.
The draft is full of defensive tackles, but Franklin will cost very little at this stage of his career, and competition is always a good thing. If the Chargers let Franklin go, they will be putting the entire run defense at risk. Letting Franklin go just creates another need to address through the draft, and it’s entirely preventable.
It seems strange that two offensive lineman should be re-signed because that unit struggled so much, but it’s really not. When you think about who struggled you notice that the interior offensive line was actually solid in 2012, and Tyronne Green is still just 26 years old.
Green started slow, but seemed to get better as the season progressed. Green also seemed to get better from 2011 to 2012, which is the kind of progress coaches like to see. By retaining Green and Vasquez, the Chargers can focus on fixing the two tackle positions.
Antwan Barnes started and played a lot of snaps as a pass-rusher in 2011, but he fell out of favor when the team drafted Melvin Ingram, signed Jarrett Johnson and Shaun Phillips returned healthy. With Ingram struggling his rookie year and Phillips also being a free agent, the Chargers should make it a priority to keep Barnes.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ingram and Barnes were the two most productive pass-rushers on the team in 2012. This is odd because Phillips played significantly more snaps, with Barnes coming in at just 141 snaps rushing the passer.
If the Chargers don’t realize what kind of asset Barnes is and re-sign him, then some other team is going to be very happy to have him.
Rex Hadnot is not the youngest player, but he’s cheap depth at a position of need. By solidifying the interior of the offensive line, the Chargers can focus on the tackles. The Chargers can worry about the guard position in future years when there aren’t as many pressing issues at other positions.
Hadnot played the majority of three games, with three starts at left guard. According to Pro Football Focus, Hadnot allowed two sacks, one quarterback hit and five hurries. That’s plenty good enough for a backup, even if he might not be a great scheme fit.