SAN DIEGO -- Winless in the AFC West last season, the San Diego Chargers have to get more physical up front on both sides of the football and replace one of the best safeties in the game in Eric Weddle.
Those should be San Diego’s top three priorities as it heads into this offseason.
What positions the Chargers address first depends on how Chargers general manager Tom Telesco priorities his shopping list. San Diego remains an organization that focuses on building through the draft.
However, the Chargers did not get the production they expected from first-round pick Melvin Gordon in his rookie season. Telesco also swung and missed on high-dollar contracts with offensive lineman Orlando Franklin and King Dunlap, along with cornerback Brandon Flowers.
Here, we take a first look at what I consider the top three areas of need for the Chargers and a few options to fill those needs:
OFFENSIVE LINE: The Chargers used a league-high 30 different offensive line combinations and threw the ball 667 times. So it’s easy to understand why San Diego had trouble at times protecting Philip Rivers and consistently running the football. Having offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt should help provide more balance in terms of scheme, but the Chargers still need talent upgrades along the offensive line.
Solution through draft: Laremy Tunsil -- The University of Mississippi product is the most athletic and talented offensive linemen available and would provide an upgrade at left tackle. However, if the Chargers believe Dunlap’s injury issues last season were an aberration, they could look to select a versatile offensive lineman like Christian Westerman later in the draft. The Arizona State product is a good pass blocker who could have success in a zone running scheme. He could play all three interior offensive line positions and would be a good pick for the Chargers in Day 3 of the draft.
Solution through free agency: Kelechi Osemele -- A good run blocker, Osemele played the last four games of the 2015 season at left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. So he’s versatile. At 26 years old, Osemele still has plenty of gas left in the tank. But the Chargers already have invested big money in Franklin and Dunlap and could look to shore up a more obvious need at center if they do not believe Chris Watt is the long-term answer there.
SAFETY: It’s a foregone conclusion that Weddle is not coming back, creating a big hole in San Diego’s secondary. Jahleel Addae has proved he’s part of the answer moving forward, but the Chargers still need more playmaking ability in the back end.
Solution through the draft: Jalen Ramsey -- At 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, Ramsey is a hard-working cerebral player and an Olympic-level athlete. The only knock on Ramsey is his ability to make plays; he had only three career interceptions at Florida State. Boise State’s Darian Thompson and Duke’s Jeremy Cash also makes some sense.
Solution through free agency: Eric Berry -- One of the impressive comeback stories of the 2015 season with his battle back from cancer, the University of Tennessee product can still play. Berry would rejoin former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers in San Diego’s secondary and knows the AFC West well.
DEFENSIVE LINE: With Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu finally playing to their potential, the Chargers could use an athletic, interior defensive tackle inside to pair with Corey Liuget -- someone with the skill set of versatile Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
Solution through the draft: Robert Nkemdiche -- The Ole Miss product has some off-the-field issues, but he would be a great fit for the Chargers as a disruptive force inside. If San Diego is looking for more of a true nose tackle, then Clemson’s D.J. Reader makes some sense.
Solution through free agency: Malik Jackson -- He finished with 45 tackles and five sacks in defensive coordinator Wade Phillip’s scheme, a mentor for San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano. Jackson is also a Los Angeles native.