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5 Takeaways: Joe Hortiz Talks Salary Cap, Current Roster & Prospects at 2024 Combine


Joe Hortiz took to the podium Tuesday morning at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

Here are five takeaways from the Chargers General Manager in Indianapolis:

1. A look at top prospects

Hortiz is at the Combine for the first time as the Bolts GM. But he also has 26 years of NFL experience from his time in Baltimore, so he knows the ins and outs this week.

With Hortiz settled into his role with the Chargers, what are his top priorities over the next few days in Indianapolis?

Hortiz said Tuesday that getting quality face time with a prospect and learning about them off the field is just as important as their football production.

"With the players, obviously, it goes by position, but I think, really, half of it is what they do on the field — the type of player they are — but a lot of it is the person, too, the other half," Hortiz said. "You have to know what you're getting, as a person. I think that his makeup, what type of teammate he is, how coachable he is, his desire to play the game, the toughness, those are the things that really matter to me and our organization.

"Every combine is a valuable opportunity for us to get around players," Hortiz added.

Prospects can interview face-to-face with NFL teams in 18-minute timeslots.

Hortiz said the Bolts will maximize that window as much as possible.

"The 18 minutes we get them in the room to interview … you can get a lot out of 18 minutes by interviewing a player," Hortiz said. "Get to know them … it's a fun opportunity to get to know the guys."

As for the draft prospects in town, the Chargers currently hold the No. 5 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and could go a number of different directions.

Numerous position groups have been projected to the Bolts near the top of the draft, and Hortiz was asked about two of them in Indianapolis.

The first was wide receiver, as the Bolts could look to add a dynamic playmaker to pair with Justin Herbert.

"It's a passing game. In college, they spread it out more, receivers are getting so many more opportunities, so many more reps," Hortiz said. "That helps receivers develop faster, so when they get up to our level, they have a chance.

"They've seen a little bit more. We have more exposure to them," Hortiz added. "You look at the number of catches the receivers have now versus 15 years ago, it's impressive."

Reporters also inquired about the offensive line group, a position Hortiz said has noticeable depth.

"I'd say that it's pretty deep," Hortiz said. "It's weird, I get this question a lot every year leading up to the draft. It seems like there's players that every round, certainly in the offensive line, there are some other deep positions in the draft.

"It seems to be a lot, most years, the same positions — wide receiver, every year we're starting to put out more and more wide receivers because of the way college football has changed," Hortiz added. "But, yeah, it's a good depth draft for O-line."

2. The salary cap

The NFL announced Friday that it have set the salary cap at $255.4 million, a much higher figure than what was expected league wide. The 2023 salary cap was $224.8 million, meaning the 2024 number is a jump of more than $30 million.

The Bolts are now currently projected to be roughly $22 million over the cap, according to Over the Cap, a site that tracks each team's approximate cap space.

How does that number affect the Chargers?

"Obviously, the salary cap got bumped up a little bit higher than I think everyone was expecting, a little bit more," Hortiz said. "It gives us, certainly, some flexibility a little bit, more increased flexibility. We'll continue to talk through that over the next couple of weeks and have a plan of attack shortly."

The Chargers must be under the cap by 1 p.m. (PT) on March 13.

"In terms of the cap, I'm confident we can get there because you have to get there," Hortiz said with a laugh. "I have no choice but to get under the cap, so I can promise you that we're going to do that."

But even though there is considerable focus on roster moves at this time of year, Hortiz said Tuesday that the construction of the Bolts roster will be a 365-day initiative.

"I think that you're working to get the roster to where you want it every single day," Hortiz said. "That's leading up to the draft. Certainly, we're going to be taking a draft-centric approach. I believe in that.

"But, [unrestricted] free agency, June free agency, signings right before August, turning the roster during the season," Hortiz added. "The roster should never be where you want it, you're always trying to move ahead and get it. We're going to continue to work to add pieces, but we're going to do it throughout the year, at all at all times of the year."

3. Analyzing the current roster

The Chargers are scheduled to have 27 free agents when the New League Year begins in mid-March.

But the Bolts still have dozens of current players under contract for next season and beyond.

"The guys that are currently on our roster, they have an opportunity," Hortiz said.

Hortiz later added: "I'll say this, the guys that are currently on our roster, I like all of the players. I think that you find a role for them. That's what we do. In scouting, we find the things that they can do for the team. And we do it in coaching, what can they do well for us? I don't think that you eliminate any player, it's more of how they fit the team."

Hortiz said the Chargers front office and coaching staff are pulling double duty these days by working on free agency and the draft while also molding how the current roster could take shape.

"We're making progress on it. The staff really just got finalized last week," Hortiz said. "It's kind of a cross between installing the offense and installing the defense, while evaluating the players.

"That's natural because you're figuring out which players fit what we're going to do and how they're going to fit — and that's players on our roster, players in free agency," Hortiz added. "Kind of mixing it all together from a pro perspective."

One player Hortiz did mention by name was Herbert, who is set to enter his fifth season in the league.

"That's a unique opportunity for a first-time GM, I think — especially for a first time GM at a new organization, right? You may become one at your existing place, elevated into the role, but to be able to walk in and have Justin Herbert," Hortiz said.

"To have Justin, it's really cool and it's a great opportunity," Hortiz later added. "It's very unique. You don't get those chances right off the bat and that's what made this place such a special opportunity for me."

The Chargers Impact Fund hosted a special Bolts Book Club event in celebration of Black History Month, in a continued effort to bring provide the youth in our community with an opportunity to promote literacy skill development and foster an affinity for the arts. Over 40 youth athletes from the Snoop Youth Football League visited the home of the Los Angeles Chargers, SoFi Stadium, to join former All-Pro special teamer and Chargers Legend Kassim Osgood for a read-along session of Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barnes, who also holds the title of former Chargers offensive lineman. The group also toured the acclaimed Kinsey African American Art and History Collection exhibit at SoFi Stadium, which itself features artwork crafted by Barnes.

At the conclusion of the event, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Chargers Impact Fund gifted each the 40-plus youth athletes an Amazon Kindle, enhancing the accessibility of literature as the students continue on their reading journeys, providing books and learning enhancement materials at their fingertips. Since the inception of the Bolts Book Club in 2020, the Chargers have donated over 12,000 books to youth throughout Southern California, inspiring literary development for our next generation.

4. Working with Harbaugh

Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is not scheduled to speak with reporters this week in Indianapolis.

But Hortiz was naturally asked about Harbaugh's early impact on the Chargers.

"He cares, he's a great person and he's competitive," Hortiz said. "He wants to win ball games. It's all about getting better and being the best. I love him. It's been a blast.

"I'm talking about the enthusiasm that he has brought to the building. Every day, I come in in the morning, coming into his office, you feel his energy," Hortiz added. "Our players feel it, our coaching staff feels it. When he walks into the Draft Room when we're in meetings, the scouts feel it. It's exciting, it certainly is."

Hortiz spent the past 26 years in Baltimore, with 16 of those seasons coming with Harbaugh's brother, John, as the head coach.

Hortiz said Baltimore's Harbaugh gave his stamp of approval to Hortiz about his brother.

"I think that being with John for so long, I certainly had gotten to know Jim rather well," Hortiz said. "They're brothers, Jim coming into Baltimore when he was at Stanford and at Michigan, me going to visit him there.

"I think that John believes that we were going to be a great pair, knowing us both. He has told me that," Hortiz added. "He's happy that the two of us are together. I was looking forward to getting started with Jim and it's been awesome."

5. Plenty of new hires

The Bolts front office has some new faces of late — both on the coaching staff and in the front office.

Hortiz said he's been impressed by new and different voices coming together and working toward one goal.

"That's part of the excitement, right? When you sit in there and you have conversations, you learn what a coach likes in a player, what he's familiar with," Hortiz said. "You get ideas, you get different viewpoints of what the player can do.

"It's kind of a learning, growth, exploratory coming together. It's a great mixture. That's what makes it so much fun," Hortiz added. "I've had the opportunity to work with new coaches in the past, when we brought them in in Baltimore, and you get a different perspective. It's awesome. You can learn something from everyone. That's part of the excitement."

Hortiz brought in two experienced voices in Assistant General Manager Chad Alexander and Director of Player Personnel Strategy Corey Krawiec.

Hortiz offered his thoughts on both new hires.

"Chad is a guy that I've known for 25 years," Hortiz said. "I picked him up at the airport in Baltimore and worked with him there. An outstanding evaluator, he has worked in college and pro and kind of seen it all, done at all. Just a guy that I trust, his eyes and his ability to evaluate, and also his leadership. Just a great leader and going to be there to support.

"Corey was an outstanding analyst in Baltimore. He comes up with some really good ideas, has a different way of looking at things than I may look at it, as a scout, so it gives you different perspectives and explores different options," Hortiz added. "Two guys that I'm very excited to have. I'm thankful that the Spanos family helped get it done. It just shows their commitment to getting better and really improving the organization and the team wherever we can improve it."

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