In the NFL, draft picks are like gold. Teams want as many of them as they can possibly get. However, teams also like to land impact free agents. That’s what makes Thursday, May 12, 2016, such a big day for the National Football League.
That’s the day when teams can sign free agents and not have it impact their compensatory draft picks. As a refresher, teams are awarded extra draft picks if they sign fewer free agents than they lose in an off-season. That’s why some teams only ink a few players at a time even though they have more needs and more money to spend under the salary cap.
But as of Thursday teams can sign as many free agents as they want and still keep any extra picks they’ve accrued, and there are still some impact players on the market. The Chargers certainly still need help at a few positions and there are a few players they should look long and hard at signing. But first they need to do a bit of housecleaning.
Two contracts to take off the books are center Trevor Robinson and defensive lineman Sean Lissemore. Robinson was ranked as the worst offensive lineman in all of football a year ago plus the team gets Chris Watt back from injury, signed the durable Matt Slauson from Chicago, and added a pair of linemen (Max Tuerk and Donavon Clark) in the draft. Robinson is the odd man out and would save the team $2.5 million of cap space.
Lissemore has been a nice rotational player but never had a real large impact. The Bolts drafted Joey Bosa, signed Brandon Mebane, gets Corey Liuget and Tenny Palepoi back from injury, and can likely expect more development from Darius Philon, who showed flashes of being a solid end as a rookie in 2015. Dropping Lissemore gets you another $1.75 million of cap space.
After those two moves, the Bolts definitely have room to add more help. Here are the three players available they should be targeting:
1) Anquan Boldin, WR
Boldin is going to turn 36 in October but like Antonio Gates, this man is in peak physical condition. In 2015 he caught 69 passes for 789 yards and four touchdowns with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert throwing him the ball. The second-most prolific wideout on the team was Torrey Smith, who only caught 33 passes. With Philip Rivers at QB, plus Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Gates and Danny Woodhead on the field with him, Boldin would likely be defended by safeties and nickelbacks, which is an immediate mismatch. Boldin is one of the toughest guys in the NFL and the reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner, making him a tremendous locker room presence. Also add in the fact Boldin played under Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt for three years in Arizona, meaning he already knows the playbook, and Boldin is target numero uno for the Bolts.
2) Walter Thurmond, S
Thurmond played cornerback for the Seahawks and Giants, then signed a deal with the Eagles, moved to safety full time, started all 16 games for the first time, and picked off 3 passes, showing he may have been out of position for most of his career. Thurmond will turn 29 during training camp but has only played in 52 games in his career. The good news is that means he doesn’t have much wear and tear on the body. The bad news is he missed a lot of those games because he was hurt. There is also talk that Thurmond is contemplating early retirement, citing long-term health concerns, but he has not made that official yet. Thurmond is an aspiring film maker who is currently working on a documentary. If he still wants to play football, being close to Hollywood (and his home town of West Covina) would not be a bad thing for his next career. Plus the Bolts still need depth at safety and Thurmond would provide plenty of that.
3) Greg Hardy, DE
Nah, just kidding. He’s in no way worth the headache. If even Jerry Jones gets tired of your act, you have to be a truly terrible human being.
3) Dominique Easley, DL
This one is a head-scratcher. Easley is only 24 years old and two years ago he was chosen in the first round of the draft by the Patriots. His talent level is off the charts but injuries (he’s had surgery on the ACL in both knees) have held him to just three NFL starts. Still, he has 3.0 sacks (the same number the Bolts got from Kendall Reyes in his last 30 starts) and even an interception. New England did not offer much explanation as to why they released Easley this off-season, leading to speculation that he has some kind of off-field problems lurking or is bad in the locker room although I have not seen any official reports of him being a problem child. Easley would likely come in on a short, smaller “prove it” contract and if the Chargers can get a young, motivated pass rusher with first round talent at half the price, they’d be crazy to not kick the tires on him.
The Bolts have money to help at positions of need. It would be lovely to see them go out and spend it on one of these guys (NOT HARDY).