Los Angeles Chargers' NFL free-agent signings 2021: Jared Cook to fill Hunter Henry's shoes

NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2021 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 17, which means free-agent signings could be made official after that. The first round of the 2021 NFL draft begins April 29 on ESPN.

At roughly $25 million under the cap, the Chargers haven't had to make a flurry of moves to clear cap space. However, guard Trai Turner, who carries an $11.5 million cap number, was released. They also made a decision on tight end Hunter Henry, as Adam Schefter reported that the Chargers will not use the franchise tag on him for a second straight season, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Moving forward, the Chargers are in desperate need of another O-lineman, either through free agency, the draft or both. They’ve got a young, star quarterback in Justin Herbert who needs protection to go with his new coordinator and a new head coach in Brandon Staley, who has more energy than anyone around the organization in some time.

Here's a breakdown of every 2021 NFL free-agent signing by the Los Angeles Chargers, and how each will impact the upcoming season:

Corey Linsley, center

The Chargers will sign the All-Pro center to a five-year deal.

What it means: The Chargers have a verified all-star to protect (and snap the ball to) quarterback Justin Herbert. They had been piece-mealing it ever since Mike Pouncey went on injured reserved with a hip injury last September. Dan Feeney stepped in, switching over from guard, and filled in nicely, but in Linsley they have an All-Pro who they are paying All-Pro money (he will reportedly be the highest-paid center in the league). He's got great hands and is very mobile. The Chargers needed him.

What's the risk: Linsley was placed on IR last December but was back by the end of the season. He also missed three games in 2015 and seven more in 2016. That said, there's little downside here for the Chargers. The Packers couldn't afford to keep him, and so it's the Chargers' gain. He is a huge addition to the Chargers O-line. Surely Herbert is happy.

Matt Feiler, guard

The Chargers added the former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman on a three-year deal.

What it means: After playing right tackle for the Steelers, Feiler moved to left guard for the 2020 season, starting 13 games, playing 86% of the snaps. He started as a practice player in 2015 after signing with Houston as an undrafted free agent. He fills one of the guard spots for the line-challenged Chargers.

What's the risk: After starting 13 games, he tore a pectoral injury and went on IR. He did return for the team's first-round playoff loss against the Cleveland Browns.

Michael Davis, cornerback

What it means: The Chargers signed Davis as an undrafted rookie free agent ...and just re-signed him to a three-year deal. Davis, 26, received interest from many teams and became a priority for the Chargers, especially after they released cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. last week. Davis started 26 games over the past two seasons and was especially good in 2020, when he had a career high 63 tackles while adding three interceptions.

What's the risk: He's only gotten better every year, so really no risk. It would have been a huge mistake to let him go. He's big (6-foot-2) and fast. He is an ideal cornerback and one the Chargers were smart to hang on to as they remake their defense under new coach Brandon Staley.

Michael Badgley, kicker

What it means: It means that new head coach Brandon Staley has a little faith in a kicker the Chargers stuck with through thick and thin last season. Mainly thin. The self-named "Money Badger," did make 14 of 14 field-goal attempts from 39 yards or less.

What's the risk: He struggled with the long ones, making just 8 of 13 attempts from 40-49 yards. From 50-plus he made just 2 of 6. The team did sign Tristan Vizcaino as possile competition. Badgley's 72.7% conversion rate on field goals was the third-worst in the league.

Jared Cook, tight end

The Chargers and Cook, who is entering his 13th season, agreed to a one-year deal.

What it means: A veteran of five NFL teams (Titans, Rams, Packers, Raiders and Saints) Cook brings veteran leadership to the position. That's a good thing with all the youth on this team -- even at quarterback with second-year Justin Herbert, who had a great relationship with Hunter Henry, who left for the Patriots. Cook also brings production, as he caught 37 passes for 504 yards and seven touchdowns for New Orleans last season.

What's the risk: Cook was born in 1987 and turns 34 in April. That might be too many years on the body of a tight end, as Cook has already played 12 seasons. But the Chargers must see something, even though the Saints released him on March 3. Still, Joe Lombardi is a former Saints assistant who now is the offensive coordinator for the Chargers. He definitely knows what Cook can bring to the table.

Chase Daniel, quarterback

Former Detroit Lions quarterback Chase Daniel signs a one-year deal with the Chargers.

What it means: With Tyrod Taylor off to the Houston Texans, Chase Daniel likely steps in as backup quarterback to Justin Herbert, if he beats Easton Stick in the offseason. Daniel has played in the NFL since being signed by Washington as an undrafted free agent in 2009. Since, then he's played for New Orleans (twice) KC, Philadelphia and Chicago before signing a three-year $13.05 million contract with the Lions. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 94 yards and one interceptoin after Matthew Stafford left the game in the fourth quarter against the Vikings. He was released March 18.

What's the risk: He's played in 69 games and completed 178 of 261 passes. His best seasons were with New Orleans in 2010-2012, when he played in most of their games. He should be fresh and provide veteran leadership for Herbert.

Oday Aboushi, G

The Chargers agreed to a one-year deal with former Lion Aboushi.

What it means: The Chargers are serious about protecting quarterback Justin Herbert. Oday, 29, has experience, having played for the New York Jets (who drafted him in the fifth round out of Virginia) the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Las Vegas Raiders and Arizona Cardinals before landing in Detroit. He played in all 16 games this past season, for the first time in his seven-year career. He can also play left guard.

What's the risk: Not much. He seems to be getting better with age and experience. On 1,875 snaps, he has only blown 33 blocks. But his pass-rush ability needs to improve, as 19 of his blown blocks were on pass plays.

Stephen Anderson, tight end

What it means: He's a fifth year pro who played in all 16 games last season, including three starts. Anderson caught eight passes for 106 yards, averaging 13.3 yard per catch, mainly coming after the catch. He's primarily used as a run-blocking tight end.

What's the risk: Not much, especially if he's used mainly as a run-blocking tight end. They are always good to have around. With Hunter Henry gone to New England, an extra body is good.

Brandon Facyson, cornerback

What it means: He's 6-foot-2, 197 pounds and in new head coach Brandon Staley's system, having another capable player in the secondary can be a good thing, especially one with Facyson's size. Facyson also plays a lot on special teams and finished with 16 tackles and a forced fumble.

What's the risk: He's a big body with big-time potential, but the Chargers still need more proven experience in the defensive backfield before entering training camp.

Chase Daniel, quarterback

What it means: With Tyrod Taylor signing with the Houston Texans, Daniel steps into the likely backup role to Justin Herbert, if he beats Easton Stick in the offseason. Daniel has played that role since being signed by Washington as an undrafted free agent in 2009. Since then, he's played for New Orleans (twice), Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Chicago before signing a three-year $13.05 million contract with the Lions. He completed 29 of 43 passes for 264 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in four games last season. He was released on March 18.

What's the risk: He's produced, but not much, so it's hard to predict how effective he'd be if he has to play an extended amount of snaps. He's completed 178 of 261 passes for 1,694 yards and eight touchdowns in his 12-year career. He should be fresh and provide veteran leadership for Herbert.