Chargers' Choice to Keep Denzel Perryman the Sort of Move Real Contenders Make

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMarch 15, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21: Linebacker Denzel Perryman #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates an interception against the Tennessee Titans at Wembley Stadium on October 21, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)
Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images

Before free agency began, before the megadeals started flying, before the Giants sent Odell Beckham Jr. packing (to the delight of Browns fans), a future star you may not know signed a deal that brought him to tears.

His name is Denzel Perryman.

NFL team executives and coaches say Perryman, a 26-year-old linebacker for the Los Angeles Chargers, has a chance to be one of the league's next defensive greats. He's dealt with injuries over the past two years, but he's now healthy.

Just before free agency began, he signed a two-year, $12 million extension to remain in L.A., according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

"I cried after I signed the extension," Perryman told B/R. "Not many people know that, but they do now.

"It was emotional. The team was showing it still believed in me, and I'm going to do everything to make sure their trust in me isn't misplaced."

The Chargers went 12-4 last year and beat the Ravens in the Wild Card Round before losing to the Patriots in the divisional round. There's a lot to like about the Chargers' future, even in an AFC full of talented franchises.

"I feel like there is a lot of promise with this team," Perryman said. "All I'll say is stay tuned. Just stay tuned."

Perryman's deal represented more than just financial security for him. It was also part of the Chargers' strategy to focus on securing their homegrown talent while only moderately dipping into free agency.

Despite having Joey Bosa for only seven games last season, the Chargers still  ranked ninth in the NFL in total yards allowed.
Despite having Joey Bosa for only seven games last season, the Chargers still ranked ninth in the NFL in total yards allowed.David Zalubowski/Associated Press/Associated Press

There are other playoff teams following this plan. The Colts have more than $94.5 million in cap space and haven't made any huge acquisitions. The Texans have $47.7 million and aren't investing heavily in free agency, either. Playoff teams such as Dallas, Philadelphia and Chicago likewise haven't made many major moves.

This is the other side of free agency: sit tight and reward your own talent on hand. With increasing salary caps and the push from fans, media and others for teams to dive headfirst into free agency, taking a more measured approach can be controversial.

But it's how a good team should proceed in free agency, as the Chargers are proving this offseason.

The addition of 14-year veteran Thomas Davis didn't generate a lot of headlines for the Chargers, but it could make their linebacker corps among the best in the league.
The addition of 14-year veteran Thomas Davis didn't generate a lot of headlines for the Chargers, but it could make their linebacker corps among the best in the league.Ben McKeown/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Chargers are so stacked, they won 12 games last season despite losing a number of critical players to injuries. That has allowed them to use free agency to tweak their roster, not overhaul it.

On Wednesday, they signed one of the league's better backup quarterbacks, Tyrod Taylor, as insurance for the 37-year-old Philip Rivers.

Taylor once took the Bills to the playoffs, which is the equivalent of Batman beating Superman. While Baker Mayfield quickly supplanted him as the starter in Cleveland this past season, Taylor is still a savvy addition for a Chargers team that can use all the depth it can get.

And if defensive end Joey Bosa is healthy after missing most of the 2018 season with a foot injury, an already formidable defense could be downright scary.

Perryman is part of the reason why.

Through nine games last season, he was tied for second on the team with 51 tackles, according to ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams. He also had two pass breakups and an interception.

He perfectly fits what the Chargers defense is all about: speed, smarts and aggression. With him and free-agent addition Thomas Davis (formerly with the Panthers) now in the fold, L.A. potentially has one of the NFL's best linebacking corps.

The key for Perryman is staying healthy.

"My big goal is to play a full season without injury," he said. "It's a pretty simple goal."

If he does so, the Chargers will give all of us a reason to stay tuned.

    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.


Matt Miller and Connor Rogers of the Stick to Football podcast join Adam Lefkoe to try to make sense of the Odell Beckham trade, discuss Kyler Murray's NFL potential and go deep on a whole lotta draft talk on The Lefkoe Show.

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