Bold AFC West predictions: The L.A. Chargers window of contention is now shut

Our AFC West prediction series continues with a look at the Chargers window of contention—and why it's closed.

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages

That headline felt a bit funny to write. After all, anything is possible in the NFL and the Los Angeles Chargers, in particular, have a lot of enviable talent—even in 2023—along with one of the league's better young quarterbacks. Many, many, many franchises would love to trade rosters with the Chargers.

Even still, we said what we said.

The Chargers had their window and it's now shut. Justin Herbert was a very good quarterback on a rookie deal. They had a dynamic offense with a mouth-watering array of playmakers. Then they used their funny money and made big free agent splashes to get the biggest names possible—like J.C. Jackson or Khalil Mack.

The problem was that the leadership was never in place and, as we've learned, the wrong persons on the sidelines will keep a team from ever getting over the hump. Think of it as a blockbuster movie with A-list performers, an already popular premise, and a big budget. Then saddle that production with a horrible script and you get a movie no one wants to see despite the selling points. That's Los Angeles.

Shut? Really? A team with Justin Herbert, Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Josh Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Rashawn Slater, Corey Linsley, Zion Johnson, Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Eric Kendricks, Asante Samuel, and Derwin James on the books for next year? Yes.

Take a look at the books and they're cooked. The Chargers are at $200M earmarked for next year in Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen (who is 32 years old in '24), Mike Williams (who is coming off injured reserve), Khalil Mack (who will be 33), Joey Bosa, Derwin James, and JC Jackson (dead cap hit) alone. (And Herbert is only $19M of that.) Basically, 1/3 of those names are out the door with no money to try to replace them.

So yeah, if the Chargers couldn't get it done when the gettin' was good, as they say, then we don't trust them to take the next step with lesser assets, even if the coaching improves. This window is shut.