SAN DIEGO -- Adding depth to the defensive line either through the draft or free agency will be one of the top priorities for the San Diego Chargers this offseason. After firing longtime defensive line coach Don Johnson in January, the Chargers also will have a new coach leading the position group on the field in Giff Smith.
The good: Reyes played well during the backstretch of last season. He led the defensive line with 625 snaps played, finishing with 32 combined tackles, two sacks and an interception. While the University of Connecticut product’s play has been uneven, he has not missed a game in four seasons. Philon returned from a hip injury and flashed some explosiveness as an interior pass rusher. Square played solid against the run in early downs late in the year.
The bad: San Diego’s top defensive lineman, Liuget, played a career-low 420 snaps, missing five games due to a foot injury and a left knee injury that required surgery. The Chargers need to get more out of the team’s best every-down lineman next season. San Diego gave up 4.8 yards per carry last season, third-worst in the NFL. The Chargers also allowed a league-worst 21 runs of 20-plus yards. The Chargers got just six sacks combined from the defensive line in 2015. They need more explosive plays from this group in 2016.
The money: Liuget signed a five-year contract extension last season that included $30.5 million in guaranteed money, which surprised some NFL observers. Liuget was the third-highest paid 3-4 defensive end in 2015, making $14 million. He’s scheduled to make $8.5 million in 2016, making him the fourth-highest paid 3-4 defensive end. Lissemore is scheduled to make $1.75 million on the final year of his deal.
Draft priority: With a deep pool of talent available at defensive line this year, the Chargers should select at least two defensive line prospects. Getting a good evaluation on defensive line prospects like Ohio State’s Joey Bosa and Oregon’s DeForest Buckner is important if San Diego wants to make a move at No. 3. But there’s plenty of productive talent available further down the board, including Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins, Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss and Alabama’s Jarran Reed. So the Chargers could trade down and still get a talented player. Bringing back Reyes in free agency at a reasonable price is not out of the question. And signing someone like Kansas City Chiefs free-agent defensive lineman Jaye Howard to a sensible deal in free agency also makes some sense.