Los Angeles Times
Staley praises roster ahead of cap moves
INDIANAPOLIS — Even with an offseason of player moves still to come, Chargers coach Brandon Staley said Tuesday that he loves where the team’s roster sits.
“Compared to last year,” he explained at the NFL combine, “we’re just in such a better spot.”
Staley referenced players such as Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Zion Johnson as upgrades from this time a year ago and noted how much better the Chargers’ special teams performed after a personnel overhaul last year.
He said “we kind of have our starters situated for the most part,” while adding that some additions likely will be made in free agency.
The Chargers remain more than $20 million over the salary cap, according to overthecap.com, and have two weeks to make up the difference.
They are expected to be able to do so without having to cut any big-ticket pieces, such as Mack or wide receiver Keenan Allen.
Among the Chargers’ free agents are four full-time starters: right tackle Trey Pipkins III, linebacker Drue Tranquill, cornerback Bryce Callahan and safety Nasir Adderley, who was benched for one game last season.
A few other key contributors, including defensive lineman Morgan Fox, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver/kick returner DeAndre Carter, also are set to be free agents.
But Staley still expressed optimism as the Chargers prepare to retool a roster that finished 10-7 and earned a wild-card playoff spot.
“We’re a much more complete football team,” he said. “Now, I want our team to stay healthy. I want our team to get to play together because our team didn’t get to play together [last] year.”
Here’s what else Staley discussed during his session with reporters:
As a rookie, Jamaree Salyer proved his worth by ably filling in at left tackle after 2021 Pro Bowl selection Rashawn Slater was lost for the season in Week 3 because of a biceps injury.
With the return of Slater, Salyer could move to left guard if the Chargers release veteran Matt Feiler or right tackle if Pipkins departs.
“I have a very difficult time envisioning him not being a starting lineman for us somewhere,” said Staley, who called Salyer “one of the very brightest spots on our team” last year.
As for potentially re-signing Pipkins, Staley said, “I think he’s earned his way to being a guy you think of that way, as a guy you’d like to have back because he played so well.”
But Staley added that he expects there to be a market for Pipkins.
The Chargers have new coordinators on offense (Kellen Moore) and defense (Derrick Ansley).
Staley praised Moore for his leadership and history of “premium production” during his four seasons as offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.
“I would expect the same here,” he said.
Chargers fans also can expect to see quarterback Justin Herbert on the move more, a threat that was limited last season because of Herbert’s battle with fractured rib cartilage.
“That’s certainly a weapon we need to take advantage of,” Staley said. “That’s been a hallmark of how they played in Dallas, getting Dak [Prescott] on the move.”
Staley called Ansley “one of the most highly sought-after coaches in the NFL and in college over the last couple years” and “as good a defensive coach as I’ve been around.”
After spending two seasons working with the Chargers’ secondary, Ansley was promoted when Renaldo Hill left for a job with the Miami Dolphins. Staley will continue to call the defensive signals during games.
“I don’t think words can describe how I feel about this opportunity,” Ansley said on a video call. “I’m thankful to the organization … for believing in me.”
One of the combine’s annual highlights is seeing who runs the fastest times in the 40-yard dash. Chargers fans will be particularly interested this year with the team in need of speed at wide receiver. “What we’re hoping to get are difference-makers …” Staley said. “You would love to have that top-shelf, levelthree speed if you can get it. It’s tough to find. But I think it’s always ongoing.”
The Chargers needed wide receiver speed last offseason too but never made a move to acquire it. When Jalen Guyton suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3, they lost their only outside burner.
Adderley has started 44 games over the last three seasons. As the 2019 secondround pick prepares to hit free agency, the Chargers have a potential replacement in Alohi Gilman.
Taken in the sixth round of the draft in 2020, Gilman started five games last season and proved himself capable, Staley calling him “a stabilizer.”
“He’s a guy that brings a lot of the play style that we believe in,” Staley said. “He can see. He’s calm. He plays with pace. He’s a commander . ... We played better defensively at the end of the season when he became the starter for us.”
The Chargers also have JT Woods, who received limited chances during an underwhelming rookie year.
“All the things that we saw when we drafted him are still there,” Staley said. “Now, it’s just developing him in the right way, which I know we will.”
As for a possible replacement for Callahan at slot corner, the Chargers have Ja’Sir Taylor, another 2022 draft pick.
Staley said it is too early to speculate on timetables for Herbert and defensive linemen Austin Johnson and Otito Ogbonnia, each of whom is coming off surgery.
Herbert had a procedure on the labrum in his nonthrowing shoulder in January. Johnson ( medial collateral ligament sprain and fracture) and Ogbonnia (ruptured patella tendon) both were lost during the season to major knee injuries.
Staley also refused to make any predictions regarding the return of cornerback J.C. Jackson, who also ruptured a patella tendon.