Salary cap space
As of March 17, 2021, the Chargers are projected to have $36,609,474 in cap space for 2021.
The Chargers rolled over $8.1 million in 2020 cap space.
March 10 update: The salary cap has been set at $182.5 million.
It was a cruel season for the Los Angeles Chargers. A final record of 7-9 could have been drastically improved if only one or two plays per game unfolded differently. Seven of their nine losses were one-possession margins. They fell by three points or fewer in four different games. They finished on a four-game winning streak, but it wasn’t enough to save Anthony Lynn’s job as head coach. But hey, at least it looks like they have found a true franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. That development was the bright spot of the Chargers’ season.
On the surface, Los Angeles looks to be in good shape with almost $30 million in cap space available. However, they have 16 players ready to hit the market as unrestricted free agents this spring, including pass rusher Melvin Ingram and tight end Hunter Henry.
The NFL powered through its 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The league played without fans in most stadiums, and limited fans in a handful of locations. The decrease in gate revenue is going to result in a decrease in money shared between the 32 teams. This in turn means the salary cap is expected to decrease. The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a salary cap of no lower than $175 million. The latest report has the number landing between $180 and $181 million, which is a good bit lower than the $198.2 million of this past season. This will result in some tough choices for many teams.
All salary cap information below comes courtesy of the NFLPA Public Salary Cap Report.
If the Chargers want to bring back some of those UFAs, they can create more cap space by letting loose a couple of veteran defensive backs. Cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Casey Hayward have been above-average players for a long while in this league. But each man took a step back in 2020. Harris was sidelined by an injury for half of the campaign and will turn 32 this summer. Hayward will be 33 in September. Letting both men go would free up more than $16 million and leave behind less than $6 million in dead money.
The Chargers also need to upgrade their offensive line again. That was their intention when they traded for right guard Trai Turner last March. He ultimately graded out as the worst right guard in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. He is due $11.5 million next year, but with no guaranteed dollars left on his contract, the Chargers could recoup all of that money by cutting Turner before June.
The Chargers exercised the fifth-year option on WR Mike Williams last April. However, might they be having second thoughts on that decision now? Williams was once again nagged by injuries this past season and although his big-play ability remains, he is due $15.68 million in 2021. Los Angeles doesn’t have great depth at wideout, so maybe the team will restructure Williams’ contract rather than release him outright this spring. But, with no guaranteed money left to give, that latter option has to have crossed the minds of the LA brass.