The Los Angeles Chargers have been criticized by some fans as "cheap." These fans will use the recent contract standoff with Melvin Gordon as just another example of the team being unwilling to spend money to keep their best players. That claim would have merit if Tom Telesco, the Charger's GM, is not spending the team's cap space wisely. So let's unpack that claim a bit.
Let's make one thing clear, the Chargers are not cheap by NFL standards. According to overthecap.com, they currently have the 11th least amount of 2019 cap space available, but that doesn't mean they are spending appropriately. One could still make the argument that they are being "cheap" when they shouldn't be and reallocating those dollars into players that turn out to be poor investments. So that is what we will be looking at here. I will go position-by-position and give a "Bargain" or "Bust" rating based upon the 2019 cap number allocated to that position. We will start here with the offense. Then cover the defense at a later time.
2019 Cap Number: $27,709,655
This is all about Philip Rivers. He accounts for 83% of the team's quarterback spend for the year and 99.8% of the Charger's 2018 passing yards.
At just shy of $28 million, the Chargers are ninth in the league in quarterback spending. That feels pretty good to me. It feels even better when you see that the Giants, Vikings, and get this...the REDSKINS all spend more on their quarterbacks than the Chargers.
Philip Rivers was fifth in the league last year in passer rating, and is easily among the top nine quarterbacks in the league this year. So, I have no problem calling this a...
2019 Cap Number: $9,026,668
This one deserves an asterisk as we do not really know who the Chargers running backs will be in 2019 or even how much they spend on the position.
Melvin Gordon accounts for 62% of their running back spend for 2019. With him threatening to hold out, and potentially miss games this season, this situation is up in the air. However, I don't think Melvin Gordon's status on the team changes the outlook for this exercise. If Gordon plays every game and is awarded his full contract, the Chargers would be 15th in the league in running back spend. If Gordon sits out the full season, they would be 31st. Melvin Gordon is among the best running backs in football, and he has a deep group backing him up with Ekeler, Jackson, and Newsome. Getting those four (or three) while spending the 15th (or 31st) most in the league is an easy...
2019 Cap Number: $25,379,379
Keenan Allen accounts for 48% of the team's wide receiver cap number. His $12,150,000 makes him the 16th highest paid receiver in 2019.
As a team, the Chargers spend the 13th most on the receiver position. Wide receiver is one position where the money spent seems to translate really well into production. The Patriots and Texans are the only two teams (in my opinion) who spend less than the Chargers and are still getting elite-level play out of their wide-receiver corp. The Saints and Steelers are outliers in that the Saints recently made Michael Thomas the highest paid WR in the league, but that doesn't count against his 2019 cap number. The Steelers unloaded Brown's heavy contract off of their WR column and into their dead money column. So, they don't count despite having JuJu on a bargain rookie deal.
So, the Chargers at 13th in the league in spending for players of the caliber of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are sitting pretty - making their wide receiver spend for 2019 a...
2019 Cap Number: $38,664,938
The offensive line is the most expensive offensive position group for most teams in the league, but it feels wrong when the Chargers are one of those teams. In fact, there are only six teams in the NFL that have a position with more money allocated to it than they do their offensive line. The fact that the Chargers are not on that list tips my hand a bit here.
The Chargers spend $11 million more on their offensive line than they do any other offensive position group. They are actually just $2 million shy of being the most well-paid group on the team.
Most of this money goes to Russell Okung ($15.9 mil) and Mike Pouncey ($8.8 mil). Okung is the fifth highest-paid offensive lineman (fifth tackle as well) in football and Pouncey comes in as the sixth highest paid center. Okung's contract really hurts right now. Signing Okung to that deal was a result of the team over-correcting for missing on D.J. Fluker. They needed help badly at left tackle, and Okung was able to cash in. Pouncey's contract is a better. He has the ability to be the sixth best center in football, and probably already is.
Even though much of the positional spend goes to two players, the fact that the Chargers spend the 13th most money on one of the worst, if not the worst, offensive lines in football makes this a BIG...
2019 Cap Number: $7,614,098
For almost two decades, the Chargers had one of the best tight ends in league history on their roster. While it's not clear if this will be the first season since 2003 which Antonio Gates will not be suited up, as of this writing he is not on the team. So, I will be assessing the group without him.
The Chargers' tight ends without Antonio Gates are a little tricky. National media folks may look at the $7.6 million (20th in the league) for a couple guys (Henry and Green) who have 1.18 receptions per game played as a little rich. But, Hunter Henry hasn't yet been given the opportunity to show fully what he can do. I don't think there's been any other Charger who has received more camp hype than Hunter Henry. He has the ability to make this offense look dramatically different.
So, yes the career numbers don't look great for this group, but this article is more about projection than historical play. Therefore this is a somewhat narrow...
That does it for the offense. The Chargers are getting some really good bang for their buck on this side of the ball. This should be no surprise. You don't get the Super Bowl hype the Chargers have gotten without making some wise personnel decisions.