We are officially in the heart of the NFL offseason.
The brunt of free agency is in the books.
The NFL Draft is only three weeks away.
Thus, now is the perfect time as any to check in with the radio voice of the Bolts, Matt "Money" Smith, as he grades the Chargers' offseason to date while also looking ahead to the future.
Chargers.com: Let's start right off the bat with arguably the team's biggest move in free agency. What are your thoughts on the Mike Pouncey addition, and how he can help the O-Line?
Smith:He's an elite player at a position of need. Mike Pouncey is never overmatched. He's strong at the point of attack, always seems to be the low man, and can pull as well as any center in the league. It's not a glamour position, but it's a damn important one, and this offense is going to be a lot better with his addition.
Chargers.com:Overall, the Bolts have been relatively quiet in free agency. What have you thought about their moves to complement the roster rather than spending big?
Smith:I'm guessing it's still being sorted out up to and then again after the draft. Perhaps they feel good about the depth at certain position groups hence their lack of spending big money on Anthony Hitchens, or taking a flyer on Tyrann Mathieu. With so little attrition, they are bringing back a roster that won nine of its last 12 games, and with a little help in Week 17 would have been a load to deal with in the playoffs. We'll get into some of the specific spots and players signed in the next couple questions, but the players they did sign are great fits.
Chargers.com:How would you grade the Chargers offseason to date compared to that of the AFC West?
Smith:Compared to the AFC West – an A. Overall compared to the rest of the league – a B. They need help at linebacker, and I'm still waiting for that safety position to be settled. But their number one need was kicker, and if healthy, Caleb Sturgis should be a perfect fit. Again, getting Pouncey was a coup, and he can turn that offensive line with a second-year player on either side of him into a really special unit. I like getting the bruising Virgil Green to free up Hunter Henry from being that Y TE all the time. By bringing back most of their team while upgrading in positions of need, the Chargers are the best team on paper in the AFC West, so I'm happy to give them that A.
Chargers.com:It's crazy to think we are only three weeks away from the NFL Draft. Where do you see the Chargers going?
Smith:If a quarterback is there at 17 they'll have a tough decision. Do you invest a first-round pick for a player, who if all goes according to plan, you won't need for two years, or with all the talent you already have set up to win right now, add an important piece to that mix? Considering how many QB needy teams are picking in front of them, it's not likely any of the Big 5 are still around. I'll guess one of the top LBs or DTs slips with all those quarterbacks going early and they'll pick from that group.
Chargers.com:You do a lot of work for NFL Network when it comes to the draft. What positions do you personally think are the strengths of this year's draft?
Smith:Quarterbacks. I believe in this group of players, which is why should Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson slide to 17, then John Spanos, Tom Telesco and their staff will have to make that tough decision I mentioned. Darnold, Allen and Rosen are going top three, maybe Mayfield is in that mix as well by the time the Broncos pick at 5.
Linebackers. There is some serious talent in a group that is full of players that are built differently, play differently and have completely different skill sets. I would imagine at least two of the top four will be there when the Chargers pick: Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, Rashaan Evans or Leighton Vander Esch.
Defensive line also has some serious depth. Again, with the quarterbacks going early, if Vita Vea were to slip to 17, I think the Chargers would scoop him up.
Chargers.com:Who are some mid-round prospects or sleepers you personally think would fit the Chargers?
Smith:We all have our biases, and I love Purdue linebackers. Ja'Whaun Bentley is a brick you know what. That dude straight up wrecks guys who believe there's a sliver of daylight in the dark alley of the A or B gap. There are questions about his athleticism and speed, but check out his 70-yard pick-six to seal the win against Minnesota as he never gives up an inch of ground to a WR in pursuit. I also love, LOVE, Justin Watson, a wide receiver out of Penn. I'd expand, but I'll just leave it there and hope he flies under the radar, slides to the Chargers in the fifth and is a second consecutive home run in that round.
Chargers.com:Finally, with the offseason program starting soon, what are your expectations for guys like Forrest Lamp, Jason Verrett and Mike Williams coming back from what essentially was a lost season?
Smith:Very high. Obviously Verrett is in a different category because we've seen him play at a Pro Bowl level, but health has dogged him his entire career. In the case of Lamp, I thought he was the best interior lineman in the 2017 Draft, a plug and play starter at guard, and the Chargers got great value where they selected him. With Mike Williams, just walking by the guy around the facility you can see why he went in the top 10. He's huge. Not just tall, but big, too. Again, it's all health and him trusting his body to get back to playing at the level he's shown he's capable of playing.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed above represent those of individual authors and do not represent the opinions or policies of the Chargers' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives.