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5 Chargers Questions Ahead of Free Agency


We're a week away from the official start of free agency.

The 2024 New League Year begins March 13 at 1 p.m. (CT) when hundreds of players across the league — including 27 from the Bolts — are scheduled to become free agents.

With that in mind, here are five Chargers questions ahead of free agency:

1. What happens at running back?

We're starting here because new Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh made it quite clear this is a priority for him.

Back at his introductory press conference, Harbaugh said the Bolts need to "beef up the run game" on offense. The Chargers have finished 25th or lower in rushing yards per game over the past two seasons.

So, while the Bolts are expected to revamp their rushing attack under Chargers Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, who will run the ball?

Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley — the Chargers top two backs over the past few years — are both slated to become free agents next week.

There's always a chance that one, or both, players return. If not, however, the Chargers have Isaiah Spiller on the roster along with Elijah Dotson and Jaret Patterson.

Based on what happens with Ekeler and Kelley, the Bolts might be in a position to add running back depth in either free agency or the draft.

"Running backs are important for an offense, and I truly believe that," Chargers General Manager Joe Hortiz said last week at the Combine. "I've been in Baltimore for 26 years and running backs were extremely important. Certainly, in Jim's offense and Greg's offense, it will be."

2. Does the O-line get addressed?

Offensive tackle has been a popular projection in recent mock drafts, but Rashawn Slater and Trey Pipkins III are both under contract for the 2024 season.

Perhaps the Bolts add more bodies at that position, but the more pressing question resides at center.

Corey Linsley told reporters in January he is “99 percent” likely to retire due to a heart-related medical issue. He started the first three games of the 2023 season.

Will Clapp, who started the next 11 games in place of Linsley, is slated to be a free agent.

Brenden Jaimes, who started the final three games of the 2023 season at center, is still on the roster.

So, do the Bolts bring Clapp back as the starter? Do they go with Jaimes in that spot? Or do they look to address the center spot another way?

"Corey played three games last year. We had some guys that filled in for us there," Hortiz said. "Some are free agents, so, obviously, we're going to address that as we lead into free agency.

"There are available guys in free agency and then, certainly, the draft," Hortiz added. "We have guys on the roster that we feel can snap the ball right now and we're excited about those guys. Then, we'll continue to add pieces as we can."

3. How does the secondary look?

Of the 27 Chargers players who could be free agents next week, nearly a quarter of them (six) reside in the secondary.

That group of half-dozen — Essang Bassey, Michael Davis, Alohi Gilman, Jaylinn Hawkins, Dean Marlowe and Raheem Layne — all registered at least one defensive start in 2023.

Bassey and Davis are the cornerbacks of the group, with Davis playing a prominent role at that spot in recent seasons. If one, or both, leave in free agency, cornerbacks becomes an even higher priority for the Bolts alongside Asante Samuel, Jr.

At safety, Derwin James, Jr. is still the focal point of the defense. But there's a chance that he has a new teammate starting next to him in 2024.

Gilman started 14 games in 2023 while Marlowe (four starts) and Hawkins (three) also saw extended action.

Based on what happens in free agency, the Chargers could be looking for multiple new starters in the secondary.

4. New starters at linebacker?

The Chargers made their first big roster move of the 2024 offseason Tuesday when they released linebacker Eric Kendricks.

That means the Bolts will be look for a new starting linebacker in 2024 … and there's a chance they could be looking for two with Kenneth Murray, Jr. possibly on the cusp of free agency.

Murray started 15 games in 2024 as he set a career high with 3.0 sacks.

But with the former first-round pick set to be a free agent, the Chargers have a decision to make in the heart of their defense.

Daiyan Henley, a 2023 third-round pick, could be in line for more playing time now that Kendricks is gone. And that possibility increases if Murray does not return.

Nick Niemann, who started three games in 2023, is also under contract for next season.

5. An eye on special teams?

Cameron Dicker is one of five Chargers who are exclusive rights free agents, meaning he has fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract.

If the Bolts offer him a 1-year contract at the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), Dicker cannot negotiate with other teams.

So, while it seems likely that Dicker is back in the fold in 2024, the Bolts are slated to have key special teams pieces become free agents soon.

Layne, who we mentioned above, tore his ACL in mid-October and is viewed as a vital member of that phase.

Also keep an eye on linebackers Amen Ogbongbemiga and Blake Lynch, both of who are scheduled to be restricted free agents.

Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken has rejuvenated the third phase of the game for the Bolts over the past two seasons.

But if Ogbongbemiga and/or Lynch aren't on the roster next year, the group will be searching for key depth pieces on special teams.

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