4 toughest cuts based on latest Chargers' roster projection
One of the struggles for teams with strong rosters is that roster cuts get more challenging. Talented depth pieces fall victim to a numbers game every offseason and veterans with high cap hits are released to save salary room.
For teams like the Los Angeles Chargers, several notable players might be on the outside looking in. Based on The Athletic’s Daniel Popper’s latest roster projection, these players may soon be looking to find that foothold.
WR Joe Reed
Reed spent last season on the practice squad’s injured reserve following ankle surgery in September, which perhaps makes him a less difficult cut this time than if he had performed. Drafted in the fifth round in 2020, the Chargers used him as the primary return man as a rookie, as he logged 21 kick returns for an average of 20.7 yards. With DeAndre Carter now on the roster, Reed’s path to the roster is much murkier than it was months ago. However, he’s one of the fastest receivers on the roster, if not the fastest. Losing that speed in a room without many deep threats could preclude the team from pushing the ball downfield as often as offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has suggested they want to.
DL Breiden Fehoko
Arguably the best run defender from last year’s team, Fehoko may be caught in the numbers game on the defensive line. With four new additions to the position – Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox, and Otito Ogbonnia – every member of last year’s team could be on the chopping block. Jerry Tillery seems likely to make the roster, considering Tom Telesco has never been one to bail on high draft choices early on. Popper has touted veteran Christian Covington as a virtual lock to make the roster, but I’m not sure how strongly I agree with that sentiment. If that’s true, however, Fehoko would be the first odd man out, and I don’t anticipate he’d make it through waivers to be added to the practice squad. I’ve been a strong advocate for Fehoko to make the roster this season, but he’ll have to have a strong training camp to make the coaching staff make the tough decision to cut bait with a more established veteran.
CB Tevaughn Campbell
Although Campbell was the source of much consternation from Chargers fans last season, I think he is a decent depth piece who we know has a good grasp on the defensive system. The fact that he was forced into playing huge numbers of snaps isn’t his fault, after all. With JC Jackson and Bryce Callahan now on the roster, LA has four established corners (Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis). The battle for CB5 will come down to Campbell, special teamer Kemon Hall, and rookies Ja’Sir Taylor and Deane Leonard. In some ways, Campbell reminds me of former Charger Brandon Facyson, who never performed exceptionally well for LA but has hung around the league and figures to play a decent number of snaps for the Colts this season.
CB Deane Leonard
While it may be premature to call a seventh-round rookie with two seasons of football in the US under his belt a tough cut, Leonard made plays during seemingly every OTA session. If that production is maintained through training camp, he could make it very difficult for the Chargers to release him to get him to the practice squad. One barrier for Leonard, however, is that he’s primarily an outside corner. Brandon Staley has been clear that he wants this year’s Bolts squad to be multiple on defense, and that says to me that the corners further down the depth chart need to be able to play inside and outside. Jackson and Davis are boundary corners only, while Samuel and Callahan are flexible (although Callahan is primarily a slot corner). At CB5, the Chargers will likely want a player they can cross-train to plug in for anyone forced to miss time due to injury. That probably gives Taylor a leg up on players like Campbell and Leonard.