NFL free agency has been going for about a week now, and we’re keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2022 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2022 NFL draft begins April 28 on ESPN.
The Chargers entered free agency with a star quarterback in Justin Herbert, who was named to the Pro Bowl in his second season after throwing for 5,014 yards and 38 touchdown passes in 2021. And they were able to take care of a big offseason priority by re-signing receiver Mike Williams, who agreed to a three-year, $60 million contract, with $40 million guaranteed and $28 million in the first year of the deal after having a career year in 2021.
The Chargers are also making moves to bolster their defense, as they acquired pass rusher Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears to provide pass-rush help to Pro Bowl Joey Bosa to combat an AFC West that’s gotten even tougher with the Denver Broncos trading for Russell Wilson.
They were also looking for a right tackle, a guard and possibly a cornerback, along with some big guys on the defensive line to shore up a rush defense that was among the NFL’s worst.
Here’s a breakdown of every 2022 NFL free-agent signing by the Los Angeles Chargers, and how each will impact the upcoming season:
The Chargers are giving the former Patriots CB a Los Angeles Chargers are giving former New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson a five-year, $82.5 million deal that includes $40 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.
What it means: The Chargers just watched the team they share a stadium with (the Los Angeles Rams) win a Super Bowl and still have star quarterback Justin Herbert on his rookie contract. In other words, it’s time to push their chips in and go after a Super Bowl. That’s the only logical conclusion after agreeing to terms with the market’s best cornerback, trading for edge rusher Khalil Mack and re-signing receiver Mike Williams to a $20-million-a-year deal. The Chargers just missed the playoffs last year but in the uber competitive AFC, they clearly recognized that big moves were needed.
What’s the risk: Big-money free agent signings always come with some level of risk. With Jackson, the risk comes in comparable players, such as Malcolm Butler, who have soared from undrafted free agents to highly-paid No. 1 corners and not panned out. Jackson also had some struggles against Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs, raising some questions about how he’ll hold up weekly against other top wideouts. But Jackson’s 25 interceptions are the most in the NFL over the past four seasons and he’s allowed the lowest passer rating (42.0) as the nearest defender in the league since 2018. It’s risky, but worthwhile to pursue for a defense now loaded with talent. — Nick Wagoner
The former Rams defensive tackle agreed to move across town to play for the Chargers, as he will sign a three-year deal worth up to $24 million.
What it means: Joseph-Day only has to switch home locker rooms at SoFi Stadium to join his new team as the Chargers continue to spend big to bulk up their defense. Joseph-Day reunites with coach Brandon Staley (the former Rams defensive coordinator) and joins edge rusher Khalil Mack, cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive tackle Austin Johnson as important additions to the Los Angeles defense and, like Johnson, will be tasked with improving a run defense that yielded the third most yards in the league in 2021. He finished second in the NFL in run stops per game (2.75) last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
What’s the risk: Joseph-Day was limited to just seven regular season games in 2021 because of a pectoral injury. Though that was the only time he missed in the past three seasons, it brings a bit of a question mark as he joins the Chargers. To his credit, Joseph-Day returned to play in the Super Bowl. Like with Johnson, this isn’t a bank-breaking deal, but Joseph-Day will need to avoid further injury and ramp up production for this deal to be a win for the Chargers. — Wagoner
Hopkins has signed a multi-year deal with the Chargers, according to the team.
What it means: Bringing Hopkins back was a no-brainer for the Chargers, as he provided much-needed stability in the kicking game after being signed this past October. Hopkins hit 18 of 20 field goals (90%) and 30 of 32 extra points (93.8%) after taking over for Tristan Vizcaino. Hopkins previously played for the Washington Commanders from 2015 through the first six games of 2021.
What’s the risk: Hopkins performed above his career average this past season, so he might be prone to falling back. But considering the problems the Chargers had at kicker prior to his arrival with the likes of Vizcaino and Michael Badgley, it’s worth it to them to continue to roll with Hopkins.
Covington is re-signing with the Chargers, according to the team. Contract terms were not disclosed.
What it means: The Chargers get back a role player for the interior of their defense to join free agent signings Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson. Covington played in 16 games last season with three starts and had 52 tackles along with one sack.
What’s the risk: There appears to be very little risk by re-signing Covington. He’s coming off a career-high year for tackles and with the addition of Khalil Mack, Covington may end up with more opportunities to get to the quarterback with so much attention being paid to Mack and Joey Bosa. He could also help bolster a run defense that was among the worst in the NFL. — Josh Weinfuss
Johnson will sign a two-year deal worth up to $14 million, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
What it means: The Chargers continue to make significant additions to a defense that needed them. While this won’t move the needle like the Khalil Mack trade or J.C. Jackson agreement, this is a quietly solid move. Johnson has been a productive, durable player for the Giants and was one of the top run stoppers in the league in 2021 (he ranked sixth in ESPN’s run stop win rate among nose tackles). That’s important for a Chargers defense that allowed the third most rushing yards in the league last year. Los Angeles had now added an impact player at every level of its defense as it continues to build toward becoming a legitimate AFC contender in 2022.
What’s the risk: Johnson hasn’t missed a game in five seasons and though this deal isn’t anything to sneeze at, it’s also not a bank-breaking move, either. Which means there really isn’t a whole lot of risk here. Although he is probably more of a two-down player, Johnson is a logical fit who should be fine in the Chargers scheme. — Wagoner
Daniel agreed to a 1-year, $2.25 million deal, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
What it means: With Justin Herbert locked in as the starter, Daniel will return in a backup role for the Chargers. Which means if he makes the roster, Daniel will enter his 14th NFL season, all of which have been spent as a backup. Daniel has just five career starts to his name. Not many players have carved out such a niche and continued to receive significant paychecks for this long without ever getting a real shot to be a starter.
What’s the risk: There really isn’t much risk here given the price and what will be asked of Daniel. The only real risk might come in some form of opportunity cost. Which is to say it’s fair to wonder if the Chargers could have found a better backup option instead of re-signing Daniel. Still, this price tag wouldn’t prevent the Chargers from pursuing such a possibility if it were to present itself. — Wagoner
Terms of Everett’s deal were not disclosed.
What it means: The Chargers have their pass-catching tight end. Everett had the best season of his NFL career in 2021, his only year with the Seattle Seahawks, when he caught 48 passes for 478 yards and four touchdowns. The Chargers’ leading pass receiver at tight end from last season, Jared Cook, is a free agent.
What’s the risk: Everett looks like a good bet for the Chargers. He’s only 27 and his production in terms of catches and yards has increased every season since he arrived in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017. He doesn’t have to put up big numbers to justify the signing, not with the Chargers having receivers like Mike Williams and Keenan Allen and a back like Austin Ekeler.