Hey everybody! Welcome back to another edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race In The Perspective Of Chase’, a close to daily NFL article previewing your favorite team’s season! The Los Angeles Chargers have had a busy offseason, between Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler, to Justin Herbert receiving a massive long-term extension. The Chargers are really going all-in on this core led by Herbert, and others around it. So this is the biggest season yet for Los Angeles under their three year QB. This is where a playoff win and legitimate championship contention needs to happen. If not, it could be a rocky road for the rest of their future! Here is everything you need to know about the Chargers going into the 2023 season!
It has to be answered: Was Justin Herbert worth the money?
The past few seasons for the Los Angeles Chargers have been very confusing. Because the talent has always been there for Los Angeles. They’ve had Chris Harris, Derwin James, Casey Heyward, Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Melvin Ingram and others defensively. Offensively they’ve had Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and others. Yet, the win totals are 7, 9 and 10 with zero playoff wins to show for it.
2020, Herbert’s rookie season, was not expected to be a postseason year from Los Angeles. 2021 on the other hand–where Herbert was awarded AFC Pro Bowl starter at quarterback for his amazing season, which included 38 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards–Los Angeles won just nine games despite a very intriguing 8-5 start. Last season, more of the same. Los Angeles won ten games, were finally awarded a postseason birth, but then proceeded to blow a 27 point lead in the second quarter against Jacksonville, which included a converted two-point conversion at the one yard line for the Jags due to an unsportsmanlike penalty from defensive leader Joey Bosa.
So, a ton of talent, and absolutely NOTHING to show for it. The moral of the story has always been, they’re very talented, can’t stay healthy, and blow a ton of leads in the record column, or just game-to-game. And that couldn’t be more true! However, everyone always like to bicker about the fact that they’ve been an injured team. But how about other teams. Teams like Baltimore and Philadelphia learned just this past season how valuable just having your quarterback on the field is, forget other positions. As long as you have your quarterback healthy, you’re fine (unless you’re Kansas City where your quarterback doesn’t have to be healthy and he’ll still be the best player in football). The Chargers have had that. Nobody ever blames Justin Herbert, but is he the problem?
This is something I wanted to bring up, especially now that Herbert is locked up. Los Angeles signed Herbert to a five year, $262.5 million dollar contract, the largest per-year salary in the history of football, surpassing deals signed by NFC champion Jalen Hurts and former MVP Lamar Jackson just this past offseason. That’s a lot of money! And while Herbert has alway had great statistics, has he ever been good enough to be worth that kind of money? Ever since he came into the league, he’s been surrounded with offensive talent most quarterbacks have NEVER been surrounded with! Yet, he hasn’t even proved he can take the team on his back with little weapons or if players go down, to prove HE is really what makes the Chargers the team they are.
It’s not the money I’m mad about. If you’re in a certain tier of quarterbacks, which Justin Herbert is in, you’re always going to make more money than the last guy. But why the Chargers decided to sign him now, where he really hasn’t proven HE can take the team on his back and that HE can single-handedly lead his team to success, is very confusing to me. Lamar’s done that, Hurts has done that, Burrow–who’s about to get his money–has done that. I don’t know if I can trust Herbert, yet. And if he’s going to be the staple of the franchise and is unable to lead his team through injuries and losses, than it could be a rough road!
The Chargers really had a busy offseason. They first had to decide whether they wanted to keep Keenan Allen around for the salary he was making. Allen was still a good receiver in 2022. In fact, Allen received over 75 yards per game last year, his highest mark since 2017. But, he only played 10 games. And Allen has now gone under 1,000 yards in two of his last three seasons. But he is still a very talented receiver. At the same time though, he was not worth over 14 million dollars. So the Chargers restructured the deal to give themselves some more salary cap which is fine. But, how much long can they rely on Allen? With the injury bug already hurting him, regression is a high possibility for the 31 year old. And the amount of time he will be able to, even be a 1A-1B with Mike Williams is unknown, putting the Chargers future in real jeopardy.
The same has to be said about Austin Ekeler. Ekeler and the Chargers had a very complicating offseason, as Ekeler, despite being locked up in Los Angeles on a four year deal he signed back in 2020, was going to request a trade if the money he was going to be earning in 2023 was not restructured. So the Chargers did exactly what they needed to do by restructuring his deal. But at the same time, Ekeler is still going into the final year of his contract. And with the whole running back controversy that has happened just this offseason, there is a possibility Ekeler is no longer with the Chargers next season. And that brings me to one of the main reasons this was one of my first articles I wrote during this series.
This is a VERY big season for the Los Angeles Chargers. Williams is still good but aging, as we also mentioned for Allen, who could possibly be a free agent next summer. Ekeler may leave. Defensively, Bosa and Khalil Mack are still good but they’re regressing. Bosa has already faced injury issues, and Mack is 32 years old. And while the Chargers drafted WR Quentin Johnston in the first round, they really don’t have a young core; I really like that pickup for the Chargers for the present and for the future, considering he was a 1,000 yard receiver at TCU with an insane deep receiving game. Johnston is Los Angeles’ only true young piece though. And if Herbert continues to have the weaknesses we identified earlier, a championship may not be in the cards for Los Angeles.
This is a very important season. because it this doesn’t work out, I really think the scenario we just mentioned may happen. And the problem with that is they’ve yet to prove they can stay healthy, keep leads, or win just one singular postseason game, while essentially not trading or signing for anybody valuable this offseason. The team is good all around. It is one of the most talented teams in football. But with the Chiefs already owning their division, and the fact that they’re in a super competitive AFC, how realistic is a deep postseason run for Los Angeles? And again, if that doesn’t happen, things could get ugly!
Now, maybe everything I just mentioned in the last two paragraphs is nothing. Maybe Herbert learns how to carry the team on his own. Maybe Ekeler and/or Allen re-sign. Maybe Williams doesn’t regress, and a championship window with not just Herbert, but this core, goes on for significantly more time than I was mentioning. But if that doesn’t happen, everything is going to be centered around Justin Herbert. And if he can become the quarterback he is being paid to be, as a leader off the field, and as the leader on the field during the regular season and postseason, a championship will never sound unrealistic for the Chargers.
Prediction: Chargers make the postseason, but get bounced early once again!
Wiz Talk with Chase
Cool Sports Network
Twitter: Chase Coburn (@coolsportskid)
Sports 4 Kids (youtube.com/sports4kids126)