Everyone knows that the San Diego Chargers need to improve their offensive line and cornerback play this offseason. Although the overhaul of the two positions are far from over, at these they’ve been somewhat addressed in free agency.
Lost in all the worries about the team’s offensive line and cornerback positions is the fact that the Chargers are extremely thin at inside linebacker. After cutting starter Takeo Spikes and allowing Demorrio Williams to walk in free agency, the team hasn’t signed everyone or even shown much interest in any free agents at the position. It’s understandable that Spikes, 36, and Williams, 32, are out the door given their ages, but their departures leave yet another gigantic hole on San Diego’s roster that needs to be filled. Right now, Donald Butler is the only experienced inside linebacker on the team.
Jonas Mouton, a second-round pick in 2011, has been a bust so far and has one career tackle in three game appearances. Meanwhile, Bront Bird has been in between the practice squad and active roster, and Andrew Gachkar has been nothing more than a special teams player.
Expecting any of these guys to start could be a disaster.
The upcoming NFL Draft doesn’t offer many quick fixes either. The Chargers hold the 11th overall pick, but no inside linebacker is worth taking that high. Alec Olgetree is the consensus top inside linebacker, but isn’t expected to be taken until the second half of the first round. Manti Te’o, Kevin Minter and Kevin Riddick could be options in the second round for the Chargers but nothing is guaranteed, and pick could be used to fill one of the many other voids on the roster.
The Chargers will likely have to address the position somehow in free agency. Continuing Tom Telesco’s trend of signing high-upside players under 30, an option at inside linebacker is Larry Grant. Stuck behind Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman when with the San Francisco 49ers, Grant, 28, played well in 2011 when Willis went down with an injury. Grant has experience in the 3-4 and would be an excellent pickup.
At least the team wouldn’t have to rely on Jonas Mouton.