SAN DIEGO -- With Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson suffering season-ending knee injuries, Tyrell Williams had a breakout performance in his second NFL season. But the Los Angeles Chargers have to find a way to keep their No. 1 receiver Allen healthy and on the field for a full, 16-game season.
Locks: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin
On the bubble: Stevie Johnson
The good: Williams, an undrafted free agent in his second season with the Chargers out of Western Oregon, led the team with 69 receptions and 1,059 receiving yards. Williams also finished tied for the team lead in touchdowns with seven. Although he had six drops on the year, Williams played the final stretch of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and proved he can be a reliable target for Philip Rivers. Inman also had another solid season, finishing with a career-high 58 receptions for 810 yards and four touchdowns. And in his first season with the Chargers, Benjamin totaled 47 receptions for 677 yards and four scores. Benjamin played the second half of the season with a sprained right knee.
The bad: Johnson, projected to serve as the team’s slot receiver, suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee during training camp and missed all of the 2016 season. Allen suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, forcing him to miss the rest of the year. Allen has finished the year on injured reserve the last three seasons and has missed a total of 25 games due to injury since the Chargers selected him in the third round of the 2013 draft. The Chargers finished with 27 drops as a team, tied for 23rd in the league.
The money: Allen signed a four-year, $45 million deal this past offseason, including $20 million in guaranteed money. Johnson is scheduled to make $3.5 million in non-guaranteed base salary in the final year of a three-year deal. Benjamin’s base salary of $5.25 million in 2017 is fully guaranteed. Inman and Butler are restricted free agents and should be back. Davis, Burse and Herndon are exclusive rights free agents and also should be back in the fold, competing for a roster spot in 2017.
Draft priority: When healthy, Allen is one of the best receivers in the NFL. However, the Cal product has had trouble staying on the field, and the Chargers need an answer if Allen is not available again. So drafting a big, physical target should be a priority for general manager Tom Telesco. Someone like Clemson’s Mike Williams might make sense early in the draft. If they choose to wait later in the draft, Texas A&M’s Josh Reynolds could be a fit. Alshon Jeffery of the Chicago Bears makes some sense in free agency.