Chargers free agency reset, Day 3: What’s next after getting under the salary cap?


Welcome to our Thursday edition of the Los Angeles Chargers free agency reset.

We’ve had one of these waiting for you each morning this week, diving into all the relevant news items surrounding the Chargers as teams around the league retool their rosters.

We will assess the moves the Chargers made. We will assess the moves the Chargers did not make. We will break down the cap situation. And we will have a running list of the top 10 remaining free agents, which will be geared directly to the Chargers’ needs and financial situation.

Wednesday marked the start of the new league year, and many signings and trades became official after the 1 p.m. PT. The first wave of free agency will begin winding down now. As such, this will likely be our last reset of the week, and we will resume our regular coverage.

Live updates: Free-agent news from across the NFL
FA tracker: New teams and contract details for the top 150 free agents
Best available players: Who’s still on the market?
Grades: Best and worst of free-agent deals

The moves the Chargers made

The Chargers pushed right up until the compliance deadline, but they eventually made two moves just after 11 a.m. PT that cleared the necessary salary-cap space. They released receiver Mike Williams, and, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini, they also agreed to a contract restructure with edge rusher Khalil Mack.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Chargers restructure Khalil Mack’s deal, release Mike Williams

The Williams release made the Chargers cap complaint by the deadline. The Mack restructure gave them the operating space to officially re-sign Alohi Gilman and sign tight end Will Dissly. They have also agreed to terms with running back Gus Edwards, and the Mack restructure should afford them the necessary space to process that contract officially, as well. We are still waiting on the official framework on the Mack restructure.

Here is our news story on the Williams and Mack moves. And here is some further analysis of what those moves indicate about the roster-building timeline for head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz. Head to those links for our full detailed coverage.

The moves the Chargers did not make

One Chargers in-house free agent signed elsewhere Wednesday: linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga.

Ogbongbemiga was a restricted free agent. The Chargers did not tender him, and thus he was able to hit the open market. He signed a one-year, $2.1 million deal with Chicago Bears, according to NFL Network.

A former undrafted free agent in 2021, Ogbongbemiga was one of the Chargers’ core-four special teams players over the past three seasons. He played nearly 1,000 special teams snaps from 2021 to 2023. He led the Chargers in special teams snaps in 2022 and finished second behind linebacker Nick Niemann in 2023.

Using his athleticism and physicality, Ogbongbemiga developed into a reliable coverage player during his time with the Chargers. The team, of course, retained special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken and assistant special teams coach Chris Gould, who had both been instrumental in Ogbongbemiga’s development. However, the cheapest tender available — the right-of-first-refusal tender — was nearly $3 million for 2024, according to Over the Cap. That was too pricey, and the market agreed based on the contract Ogbongbemiga signed.

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Linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, one of the Chargers’ core special teams players, joined the Chicago Bears on a one-year deal. (Elsa / Getty Images)

The Chargers are now very thin at linebacker. They have Niemann and 2023 third-round pick Daiyan Henley. That is it. Hortiz and Harbaugh will have to build this depth chart out. The options in free agency are limited at this stage. The Chargers also lost both their starting linebackers from last season. They cut Eric Kendricks, who is headed to the Dallas Cowboys. And Kenneth Murray Jr. left as an unrestricted free agent to sign with the Tennessee Titans.

Defensive lineman Brent Urban, who was on our list of top 10 remaining free agents, agreed to terms to remain with the Baltimore Ravens, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec.

The cap situation

The Chargers saved $20 million in space by releasing Williams. For now, we are projecting $14.586 million in savings for the Mack restructure. For those savings, the Chargers would need to execute a maximum restructure while adding two void years onto the end of his deal. They could add one void year. They could add three or four void years. The amount of base salary and roster bonus converted into signing bonus could also vary. Lots of variables, so this projection is a very rough estimate.

With that said, using our Mack projection, we have the Chargers at $5.986 million in space, including the cap hits for Gilman, Edwards and Dissly. Factoring in the space needed to pay the draft class and hit the 51-player roster minimum, the Chargers are $1.976 million over the cap. Factoring in an $8 million in-season budget for things like practice squad and injury settlements, the Chargers are $9.976 million over the cap.

One more decisive move — like a Joey Bosa trade — would put the Chargers in good position to make a few more low-tier free-agent signings and have the space for draft picks and in-season budgeting. Adding a Keenan Allen extension would allow the Chargers to be a bit more aggressive in their pursuit of free agents.

Top 10 remaining free agents

1. Brian Allen, C, Los Angeles Rams

Rams’ starting center for their Super Bowl run in 2021. Lost his starting job in 2023, but still an experienced option who could come at a discount because of his backup role last season.

2. Arthur Maulet, CB, Baltimore Ravens

Played well in the slot for the Ravens last season. Minter will be running a variation of the scheme Maulet played in last season under former Ravens DC Mike Macdonald. Bringing in a veteran with scheme fluency will be valuable. Right now, Ja’Sir Taylor is in line to start at that position.

3. Nick Gates, C, Washington Commanders

Has made 29 career starts and played almost 2,000 snaps at center during his five-year career. Cut by Washington, so won’t count against the comp pick formula.

4. Bradley Bozeman, C, Carolina Panthers

Cut by Carolina on Wednesday, so he would not count against the comp pick formula. Nearly 3,000 snaps at center in his career. Also considerable experience at guard. Ravens draft pick in 2018.

5. Evan Brown, C, Seattle Seahawks

Started 17 games for Seattle last season: 16 at center and one at left guard. He also played 700 snaps at right guard for the Detroit Lions in 2022.

6. Mason Cole, C, Pittsburgh Steelers

Cut by the Steelers in February, so he would not factor into the comp-pick formula. Has more than 4,300 career snaps at center. Better run blocker than pass protector throughout his career.

7. Will Clapp, C, Los Angeles Chargers

Started 11 games last season in place of Linsley. Better pass protector than run blocker, so might not be a great fit. But will be firmly in the Chargers’ price range.

8. Sam Mustipher, C, Baltimore Ravens

Backup lineman for the Ravens last season, but made two spot starts at center in weeks 2 and 3 when starter Tyler Linderbaum was out with an ankle injury. Played well. Ravens connection.

9. Connor McGovern, C, New York Jets

Nearly 5,000 career snaps at center. Started 79 games from 2018 to 2022 for the Jets and Denver Broncos. Rotational role last season and made seven starts.

10. Tyus Bowser, Edge, Baltimore Ravens

Cut by Baltimore on Wednesday. Spent all six seasons with the Ravens. Former second-round pick in 2017. Would be a fit as edge rusher depth if the Chargers move on from Bosa.

(Photo of Justin Herbert and Will Clapp: Rich Graessle / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)





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