Corey Liuget could be low-risk acquisition along the defensive line

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 12: Corey Liuget #94 of the San Diego Chargers sits on the sidelines before their game against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on October 12, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 12: Corey Liuget #94 of the San Diego Chargers sits on the sidelines before their game against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on October 12, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Chargers will allow defensive tackle Corey Liuget to hit free agency, and there’s reason to believe he’d be a nice low-risk signing.

The Los Angeles Chargers aren’t necessarily done with defensive lineman Corey Liuget. They are, however, done with him with at his current price.

While Liuget would undoubtedly love to earn the $9.5 million due his name this coming season, the Chargers have already made it clear they will not exercise that option, which will allow Liuget to reach free agency for the first time since he entered the NFL back in 2011.

Liuget could easily come back at a lower price and finish out his career with the Chargers for as long as they’ll have him. It’d be a nice story after coming in as the franchise’s first round pick. Being in San Diego and Los Angeles alongside longtime vets like Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates is all Liuget has ever known. With 108 total games (103 starts) under his belt for the franchise, a chance to finish up with the same team could make for some nice moments at career’s end.

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All that aside, however, Liuget is now facing a wide open marketplace for the first time and he also might want to explore other possibilities. While the Chargers are on the verge of winning, he’d no doubt make for a nice addition to teams a bit closer to Super Bowl contention if the price was right.

Liuget was locked into a 3-4 front  for most of his career, but he slotted into Gus Bradley’s hybrid 4-3 just fine when the former Jags coach arrived as defensive coordinator in 2017. While he’s never put up a ton of sacks, he’s proven he can be disruptive in the backfield over time, including 2017 where he put up his best grade ever per Pro Football Focus—his first season in Bradley’s system.

The frustration primarily comes down to this last season for the Chargers (and to an extent, ever since he signed his five-year, $51M deal), Liuget has a non-stop motor and even that was clear last year in limited duty, but last season, Liuget only played in 6 games after starting the season with a four-game suspension (PED) and then ending with a quad tear that ended his season. Liuget also missed four games in 2017 and five games in 2015.

The biggest thing for any team potentially interested in signing Liuget, including the Kansas City Chiefs, will be a physical to make sure that Liuget can return to form. In the past, he’s been a verstaile defensive lineman who has never put up a ton of sacks but he has created quarterback pressures over time. Last year, he had only 2 sacks but 26 quarterback pressures in 415 snaps. Compare that to Xavier Williams who had 13 total pressures in 484 snaps. (A switch to Spagnuolo’s defense could help Williams’ numbers jump or they might not.)

Here’s a scouting report of Liuget from Brandon Thorn one year ago over at Bleacher Report:

"He wins primarily against the lateral run game. His snap quickness helps him excel as a penetrator. Liuget’s processing allow him to shoot through the gap to replace pullers and undercut reach blocks. As a pass-rusher, his hand usage and quickness stand out. He sets up blockers with inside-out fakes, clubs and rips to penetrate and move the QB off his spot. The 27-year-old possesses a nonstop motor and chases the ball through the whistle all over the field."

Steve Spagnuolo has enjoyed his greatest success in the past when his defensive line was both talented and deep—with the sort of rotation that made every other NFL team jealous (a la the Eagles in 2017). Right now the Chiefs have Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Williams and Justin Hamilton (with Allen Bailey facing free agency). Then again, Williams has been mentioned as a potential cut due to the team’s ability to save $2.5 million.

Liuget is the sort of player that will require significant homework on the physical for any interested team. The quad tendon has to look good and Liuget himself needs to be on the rebound for a healthy training camp coming into a competitive year in which he’s likely only to get a one-year commitment from a team.

However, Liuget is still only 29, so if he was potentially willing to accept a veteran mininum deal or something close to it to enjoy a one-year ride on a Super Bowl contender—one he’s lined up opposite for the last near-decade—it could be worth it. His history of playing end and tackle would help him slot into a rotation, which could keep him healthy and allow him to utilize his skill set at opportune times for a team like the Chiefs.

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Liuget has pocketed big money, and it might be time to try to win the big game. If the commitment is low and price is right, he could be a solid addition.