In January, Tom Telesco said he was not interested in parting ways with wide receiver Keenan Allen as the Chargers work to meet the salary cap.
The general manager echoed that view with the NFL group on Wednesday, as the team remains more than $20 million over the cap.
“Keenan Allen isn’t going anywhere,” Telesco said, quashing speculation that dropping the veteran wide receiver is an option being considered.
NFL teams have until the new league year begins on March 15 to get under wraps. The Chargers are one of 13 teams still needing to take steps to meet the league’s financial parameters for the 2023 season.
They are expected to do this without releasing any of their biggest players.
A third-round draft pick in 2013, Allen has spent ten years with the Chargers, trailing only Antonio Gates in several of the franchise’s all-time highest receiving categories.
Appearing on the NFL Network earlier Wednesday, Telesco compared Allen to Hall of Fame wideouts Andre Reed and Charlie Joiner.
“He’s an incredible footballer,” said Telesco. “We have a great quarterback. We need guns around him.”
Allen, Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer give quarterback Justin Herbert a trio of prolific wide receivers. The Chargers have finished sixth, second and third in passing yards in Herbert’s first three seasons.
I’d rather have a lot of good players on our roster than a lot of capspace.
— GM Tom Telesco, on wanting to keep Keenan Allen and other Chargers stars
Allen has two years left on his final contract extension, with a salary cap of $21.7 million in 2023 and $25.8 million in 2024, according to overthecap.com.
The idea of cutting him came up in January after the Chargers lost in the AFC wild card round in Jacksonville. At his post-season press conference, Telesco said he was not tempted to release Allen for financial reasons.
“Good players make money,” he explained at the time, “and I’d rather have a lot of good players on our roster than a lot of cap space.”
The Chargers will have a new offensive coordinator in 2023, with Kellen Moore replacing Joe Lombardi, who was fired after the season. Under Moore, the Chargers will want to increase their overall creativity and effectiveness in running the ball.
He becomes the third offensive coordinator for Herbert in four years with the team, a pattern of instability dating back to Herbert’s time at college in Oregon.
“Justin is really smart,” Telesco said on the NFL Network. “So I’m not worried about that.”
Herbert also has surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, an injury that has cost him no playing time. While the situation is not considered serious, the Chargers have yet to post a timeline on Herbert’s availability for off-season training.
Without significant cuts, Telesco and the Chargers will have to manipulate some existing contracts to make room for salary caps. Edge rusher Joey Bosa’s deal is one that can be restructured.
Of the players who may be victims of the salary cap, left guard Matt Feiler seems the most likely. That move would save $6.5 million, according to the company overthecap.comand open up a potential starting spot for Jamaree Salyer.
After becoming cap-compliant, the Chargers won’t be in a financial position to chase big-ticket free agents like they did last offseason.
They also have some key internal free agents and may be reliant on younger players to fill the gaps next season due to limited spending capacity.
Depth has been an issue with this franchise’s rosters for the past few seasons and could be a concern again based on how the next few weeks unfold. The free agent negotiation period begins on March 13, and players will be eligible to sign deals two days later.
How the markets are set up for players like Trey Pipkins III and linebacker Drue Tranquill will help determine if the Chargers are able to re-sign one of their free agents.
Their roster of unrestricted free agents also includes cornerback Bryce Callahan, safety Nasir Adderley, defensive lineman Morgan Fox, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver/kick returner DeAndre Carter.