General manager Tom Telesco has continued the Los Angeles Chargers' aggressive makeover of their defense by agreeing to terms with three players.
The Chargers reached deals Monday with cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson.
People familiar with the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press that Jackson’s five-year contract will be worth $82.5 million, including $40 million guaranteed, while Joseph-Day's is for three years and worth $24 million ($15 million guaranteed). Jackson's deal is for two years and could top out at $14 million if incentives are reached.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals can’t become official until Wednesday.
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Los Angeles, 9-8 last season, got off to a 4-1 start but missed the playoffs for the third straight season, winning back-to-back games only once after Week 5 and losing three of its final four games.
A big reason for the woes down the stretch was a defense that ranked 23rd overall but was even worse in key areas. The Chargers allowed 269 points in the second half and overtime, tied with the 2015 New Orleans Saints for most since 1991. Offenses converted 49.5% of their third-down opportunities, the third-highest rate since 1991.
The run defense, ranked 30th, gave up 138.9 yards per game, the worst by a Chargers defense since 2003.
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The Chargers had already made a splash last Thursday when they agreed to acquire edge rusher Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears for two draft picks. Coach Brandon Staley is hoping Jackson can have the same type of impact that Jalen Ramsey did when Staley coordinated the Rams' league-best defense in 2020.
Jackson became one of the top available free agents after the New England Patriots did not apply the franchise tag to him last week. The 26-year old cornerback earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season, leading the league with 23 passes defensed, and was second with eight interceptions. He has 25 picks over the past four seasons, most in the league.
Jackson joins safety Derwin James in the secondary and upgrades a cornerback position that struggled last season. Michael Davis was inconsistent in coverage and Asante Samuel Jr., a rookie, dealt with injuries late in the year.
Jackson also comes to the AFC West, which figures to have the league’s deepest collection of quarterbacks. The Chargers have Justin Herbert, but they will have to go against Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Denver’s Russell Wilson and Las Vegas’ Derrick Carr.
“You’re in five defensive backs 65% or more, so corner is definitely going to be something that we’re looking at,” Staley said during the recent NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. “We’re always going to be looking at it as long as I’m the head coach. You’re aware of these receivers that we have to defend.”
Joseph-Day is familiar with Staley's scheme after playing for the Rams in 2020. He missed most of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle in late October, but returned to play in the Super Bowl. He excelled against the run in 2020 and is expected to likely take over for Linval Joseph, who is a free agent after two seasons.
Johnson had 72 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks last season, starting all 17 games for the New York Giants. He was drafted by Tennessee in the second round in 2016 and used mainly as a rotational defensive tackle on running plays.