With the San Diego Chargers’ offseason schedule quickly moving toward its conclusion, the free agent market is pretty much depleted. Just about every starting caliber player has already signed, but there are still a few players available that could potentially make an impact. For the Chargers, GM Tom Telesco has filled out almost every position with adequate depth as the offseason schedule rolls toward training camp. However, two positions—safety and offensive tackle—are a little bit thin and could use another player that could step in and be a valuable member of the rotation. Here, I will breakdown two players that Telesco should consider signing prior to the opening of training camp on July 30th.
SS Donte Whitner
Whitner is most well-known by fans for his numerous run-ins with the league over vicious hits and his onetime desire to change his name from Whitner to Hitner as a form of protesting some of the NFL’s rulings. Despite these off the field antics, Whitner still carries decent value as a veteran defensive back. This past season, Whitner played 14 games for the Cleveland Browns, recording 81 tackles, four passes defended, and three tackles for loss. Whitner was a big part of the Browns’ defense as he was their starting strong safety in each game, putting up the second-most tackles on the team behind linebacker Karlos Dansby. Whitner is slightly past his prime at age 30 and it showed a little bit in his production as he recorded his fewest passes defended since 2008 and it was the first year since 2008 in which he did not make an interception. The Chargers would most likely not be signing Whitner to be the starter, though. Jahleel Addae is entrenched as the starting SS, and Dwight Lowery was signed to start next to Addae at FS, so Whitner would slide in as a rotational safety. As a result, he would play far fewer snaps than last season with Cleveland. This would help to keep his aging body healthy over a full season, and reduce the pressure on a 30-year-old defensive back. Whitner would bring another veteran presence to the Bolts’ young defense, and he could provide some valuable mentoring to Addae. Unfortunately, the Chargers would likely need to act fast if they hope to sign the veteran safety as he previously announced, albeit falsely, that he had signed with the Los Angeles Rams. In addition, former Browns teammate Dansby is now urging Whitner to join him in Cincinnati. Telesco would likely need to give Whitner a decently sized contract on a short-term deal in order to get him to come to San Diego, but it could end up being money well spent. Whitner would come to San Diego as a player with a lot of experience to help mentor the younger players on the Chargers’ roster, while also providing solid depth at a position with very little behind Addae and Lowery.
OT Will Beatty
The 31-year-old missed all of 2015 due to multiple upper body injuries, causing the New York Giants to cut the former second-round pick a few months back. Beatty still has not signed, but the Baltimore Ravens and Raiders emerged earlier in free agency as interested parties. Beatty was the starting left tackle for the Giants from 2011-2014, earning 63 starts in total since being drafted by the Giants back in 2009. Beatty could still provide the Chargers with solid depth as he was ranked as the 11th best left tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus in 2014. With King Dunlap’s consistent injury issues and Chris Hairston struggling as a pass blocker when filling in for Dunlap this past season, Beatty could provide a valuable presence as a rotational offensive lineman. Hairston permitted six sacks this past season, a number that Beatty reached only once in his career. Beatty could fill-in as another solid swing tackle, pushing Hairston to a more rotational role between the interior spots and as a tackle. In the event Dunlap were to get injured—which is highly likely when looking at his extensive injury history—Beatty would be a much better replacement than Hairston. The Chargers can use as much depth possible with the extensive injuries on the offensive line over the past couple seasons, and Beatty would be a relatively cheap, veteran presence that could be a serviceable starter in the event one of Joe Barksdale or King Dunlap were to go down.
Both of these players would be an upgrade on current backups at offensive tackle and strong safety, while providing a much needed veteran presence on a very young team. Telesco has shown a great desire to make the roster more reliant on youth rather than aging players, but Beatty and Whitner could be signed to one-year deals and would fill a significant need for the Bolts. Plus, neither Beatty nor Whitner are at the end of their careers as Beatty is the elder of the two at only 31 years old. Beatty would be an astute signing at the right price, but Whitner would fill a much bigger need than the former Giant. Outside of Lowery and Addae, the depth at safety is incredibly thin and inexperienced. Whitner would go a long way towards fixing this problem in the short term, allowing the Chargers to fill his spot for the long term in the 2017 draft or free agency. The Bolts have not been linked with either of these two players throughout free agency making each players’ signing relatively unlikely, but Telesco could do much worse than adding either player to the Chargers’ young roster.