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One trade, cut and signing the Los Angeles Chargers should make

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In 2023, the Los Angeles Chargers faced significant challenges, finishing with a disappointing 5-12 record and failing to secure a playoff berth. The appointment of new head coach Jim Harbaugh signals a fresh start, but the road to improvement will be arduous.

Considering the team’s predicament, here are three strategic moves the Los Angeles Chargers should consider:

TRADE: Linebacker Khalil Mack to alleviate cap constraints

The Chargers currently find themselves in one of the most precarious salary cap situations in the league, with an excess of $35.51 million according to Over The Cap. Khalil Mack, carrying the team’s highest cap hit at $38.51 million, presents an opportunity to create much-needed cap space. Despite being 33 years old, Mack remains a formidable pass-rusher, recording 17 sacks and five forced fumbles in 17 games last season. Pro Football Focus awarded him an impressive 91.8 grade, ranking him sixth among players at his position. Brad Spielberger of PFF has suggested a trade scenario involving the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a 2025 fourth-round pick. Such a move would result in a significant cap savings of $23.25 million for the Chargers, providing vital financial flexibility moving forward.

CUT: Wide receiver Mike Williams

With a cap hit of $32.46 million, Williams is one of the team’s highest-paid players, despite being prone to injuries. His inability to stay healthy was evident last season when he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3, marking yet another setback in his injury-riddled career, as reported by CBS Sports.

Although Quentin Johnston struggled to establish himself as a reliable second wide receiver during his rookie campaign, the Los Angeles Chargers have the opportunity to address Williams’ potential departure by selecting his replacement in the upcoming draft. In a recent mock draft by Pro Football Focus, the Chargers were projected to use their fifth overall pick on LSU’s Malik Nabers, a highly touted prospect who earned first-team All-American honors in 2023.

By releasing the 29-year-old wideout, the Chargers would save a significant $20 million in cap space. This newfound financial flexibility could be allocated towards bolstering the team’s defense or acquiring additional offensive talent, addressing crucial areas of need, and strengthening the overall roster.

SIGNING: Running back Tony Pollard

The Los Angeles Chargers struggled to establish a strong running game last season, ranking 24th in the league in rushing yards with an average of 96.6 per game. Starting running back Austin Ekeler, who is set to become a free agent in March, recorded a career-low 3.5 yards per carry in 14 games.

Bringing in Tony Pollard would be a savvy move for the Chargers. The former Pro Bowler showcased his ability with the Cowboys, rushing for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns on 252 carries across 17 games. According to Spotrac, Pollard’s market value is estimated to be a two-year deal worth $6.5 million annually, which ranks him eighth among players in his position.

Enhancing the running game would help create a more balanced offensive attack, thereby providing greater protection for quarterback Justin Herbert. Harbaugh emphasized the importance of not relying solely on Herbert to carry the team, stating to NFL Media’s Rich Eisen, “[Herbert] doesn’t have to be Superman on every play.” By bolstering the running game with a talent like Pollard, the Chargers can alleviate pressure on Herbert and diversify their offensive approach.

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