Chargers should bring back Melvin Ingram, Jahleel Addae in free agency

SAN DIEGO -- One has served as a consistent edge rusher the past two seasons while the other is the glue of the team’s secondary.

Edge rusher Melvin Ingram and strong safety Jahleel Addae are two of the San Diego Chargers’ projected 13 unrestricted free agents expected to hit the open market in March.

And if the Chargers want to keep continuity on the defensive side of the ball, both should be brought back into the fold at Chargers Park.

After totaling a career-high 10.5 sacks in 2015, Ingram finished second on the team in sacks this season with eight, and also had 60 tackles and four forced fumbles.

Ingram’s price tag could get expensive if he is allowed to hit the open market. The South Carolina product hinted back in December he would like to remain with the team that selected him No. 18 overall in the 2012 draft.

“I started my career here,” Ingram said. “When you start somewhere, they show loyalty, and you’ve been here for so long, so why wouldn’t you?”

Addae also said during locker room clean-out that he’d be interested in returning to the Chargers.

“No doubt about it, I want to be a Charger,” Addae said. “But once again you never know. I’ve just got to continue to pray about it, and we’ll see what happens from here.”

Other key pending free agents that San Diego’s front office will have to make a decision on include running back Danny Woodhead and inside linebacker Manti Te’o, both of whom spent 2016 on injured reserve with season-ending injuries, backup quarterback Kellen Clemens and rotational defensive lineman Damion Square.

“I like this workplace,” Square said. “And I don’t know how things would change (with a new head coach), but just with the culture in this locker room you always like going to a place that you want to show up to, which might not be the case in every organization in this league.”

According to ESPN NFL Insider and numbers guy John Clayton, the Chargers have $17,554,850 in salary cap space based on a projected cap of $168 million for 2017, which puts them in the bottom third of the league.

But the Chargers have some ways to create more wiggle room. San Diego exercised the fifth-year option on guard D.J. Fluker last year, which carries a salary of a little over $8.82 million. But the team can pull that option before free agency starts in March.

The Chargers also can save $9 million in cash by releasing cornerback Brandon Flowers, who missed the last six games of the season due to lingering concussion issues and could be contemplating retirement.

San Diego could save another $6.4 million by releasing safety Darrell Stuckey ($2.9 million in base salary in 2017) and receiver Stevie Johnson ($3.5 million in base salary).

According to Overthecap.com, the Chargers are projected not to receive a compensatory pick in this year’s draft.

Unrestricted free agents: S Jahleel Addae, QB Kellen Clemens, TE Jeff Cumberland, RB Ronnie Hillman, OLB Melvin Ingram, DL Sean Lissemore, CB Robert McClain, RB Dexter McCluster, DT Damion Square, ILB Manti Te’o, OLB Tourek Williams, RB Danny Woodhead, LS Mike Windt.

Restricted free agents: WR Jeremy Butler, TE Asante Cleveland, WR Dontrelle Inman, TE Sean McGrath, RB Brandon Oliver, DT Tenny Palepoi, ILB Korey Toomer, OL Kenny Wiggins.

Exclusive free agents: WR Jeremy Butler, WR Isiaah Burse, WR Geremy Davis, LB Carlos Fields, WR Javontee Herndon, RB Andre Williams.