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5 Chargers Questions Ahead of Free Agency


The countdown to free agency is on, as the 2023 New League Year begins Wednesday at 1 p.m. (PT).

The Chargers are slated to have 26 players be free agents, with 15 of them set to be unrestricted free agents. (Keep track of all moves with our 2023 Free Agency Tracker).

Here are five questions surrounding the Bolts ahead of free agency:

1. What's the market for Pipkins and Tranquill?

If we're looking on offense and defense, right tackle Trey Pipkins III and linebacker Drue Tranquill each represent the bigger names on their side of the ball.

But the members of the team's 2019 draft class have more in common than entering free agency together.

Both players are unique in that they each developed at their own pace over the years before blossoming into full-time starters in 2022.

Tranquill, a 2019 fourth-round pick, was a special teamer as a rookie before he missed almost the entire 2020 season with an ankle injury. He bounced back and kept developing, playing at his highest level this past season as he wore the green dot as the defensive signal caller.

Pipkins was a bit of a project as a third-round selection but gradually worked his way into the lineup. He won the starting right tackle job in camp and ran with it, solidly starting 14 games while also displaying toughness as he battled through a knee injury for most of the season.

The duo is similar in the fact that while they may not be household names across the league, both went on an upward trajectory in their first four years in the league, culminating in strong respective seasons in 2022.

Now, it will be interesting to see how the league views the market for each player as free agency begins.

2. How are special teams affected?

The Bolts special teams unit was the most consistent of the three phases in 2022, a credit to the job Ryan Ficken and Chris Gould did coaching that group up.

But the players had a hand in that success, too, and many key names are now set to be free agents.

Punter JK Scott had a career year in 2022, and his hangtime was a key reason why the Chargers led the league in punt return yards allowed.

Returner DeAndre Carter finished third in the NFL in punt return average (11.7 yards) and had a career year on offense as a wide receiver.

If both of those players don't return, the Chargers will need to find players to try and replicate their impact and success.

Troy Reeder (unrestricted free agent) and Derrick Tuszka (restricted free agent) also played well on special teams and are lesser-known names to keep an eye on.

Finally, kicker Cameron Dicker is an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) since he has fewer than three accrued seasons.

Dicker shined as a rookie, making 19 of 20 field goals and hitting all 22 extra points in the regular season. 

ERFAs generally tend to return to their team since that player cannot negotiate with other teams if his original team offers him a 1-year contract at the league minimum.

If Dicker does return, perhaps we see a competition between him and veteran Dustin Hopkins this offseason.

3. Does the secondary get impacted?

A pair of defensive starters in the secondary — Nasir Adderley and Bryce Callahan — are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next week.

Time will tell if one or either of those two players return.

Adderley was a 2019 second-round pick who has plenty of potential, but he was also taken out of the starting lineup multiple times in 2022 in favor of Alohi Gilman.

That included the postseason, as Gilman got the start against the Jaguars as Adderley played just two defensive snaps in that game.

Callahan, meanwhile, is a veteran who knows the defensive scheme like the back of his hand and manned the slot for most of this past season.

But when Callahan was banged up, rookie Ja'Sir Taylor stepped in and played well in his absence.

If either Adderley or Callahan return, it will be a boost to the Bolts secondary. If they don't, the Chargers appear to have players ready to take on bigger roles in 2023.

4. Can the Chargers hit on post-draft free agents yet again?

You will probably hear the term "free agency frenzy" thrown around a lot in the next week.

But keep in mind that free agency isn't limited to just a two-week window.

A year ago, the Bolts waited until after the draft to sign veterans such as Kyle Van Noy, Morgan Fox and Callahan to 1-year deals and add excellent depth to their roster.

Callahan, as mentioned above, started 11 games in 2022. But Fox and Van Noy were pressed into starting roles as injuries mounted throughout the regular season.

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco has done a strong job in recent years of hitting on post-draft free agents.

With Van Noy, Fox and Callahan scheduled to all be unrestricted free agents, he may have to do it again later this spring.

5. How do the Bolts approach the backup QB spot?

The Chargers are in an extremely favorable spot at the sport's most important position.

Justin Herbert is a superstar and could be primed for even greater heights under new Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore.

Let's be clear, the Bolts have their franchise quarterback already in the building.

But with Chase Daniel and Easton Stick both set to be unrestricted free agents, there is some intrigue as to what the Chargers do for depth behind Herbert.

There are multiple options here.

First, the team could bring back both quarterbacks and keep things status quo. Or, they could decide to just bring back one of the two between Daniel and Stick.

Finally, the Chargers could add a fresh face in free agency or perhaps use a late-round pick on a quarterback in the draft.

It also wouldn't be a surprise if the Bolts go with some combination of the options above.

What we do know is that the long-term plan obviously revolves around Herbert.

Take a look back at the best photos of the Chargers 2022 draft class in their inaugural NFL campaign

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