'We know who we are': Do Los Angeles Chargers' roster moves make them Super Bowl contenders?

·4 min read

COSTA MESA, Calif. –  When Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James recently agreed to a massive contract extension, it was one of many moves the organization has made to do something that seems tough for this franchise to accomplish: make the postseason.

The Chargers haven't done that since 2018 but moves like signing James, and a bevy of others, may have them in solid position to make a playoff run.

In the aftermath of witnessing the neighbor Los Angeles Rams win Super Bowl LVI inside the Inglewood stadium they share, the Chargers invested north of $200 million in overall contract value to upgrade its personnel.

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Outside linebacker Khalil Mack was acquired via trade, cornerback J.C. Jackson, slot corner Bryce Callahan, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive linemen Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson were signed in free agency. Plus, mega contract extensions were given to James and wide receiver Mike Williams.

The Chargers had a blueprint of how they wanted to construct their roster this offseason, and they feel they have executed their plan in a major way.

“We know what we’re looking for. We know who we are, and we know who we want to be. I think we’ve defined what we want at a high level,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said to USA TODAY Sports. “I think that’s exciting.”

Staley has a year of head coaching experience under his belt and the Chargers are returning six Pro Bowlers from last year’s squad with the addition of two former Pro Bowlers in Jackson and Mack.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, left, celebrates his touchdown throw to wide receiver Mike Williams (81) last season. Herbert is one of the league's bright young stars. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, left, celebrates his touchdown throw to wide receiver Mike Williams (81) last season. Herbert is one of the league's bright young stars. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Chargers’ roster moves have heightened expectations for the organization that missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Caesars Sportsbook has the Chargers projected at 10 wins (a win total they haven't reached since 2018) while the Kansas City Chiefs are forecasted just ahead at 10.5 wins.

“I’m really excited for this team,” Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert said. “Having been in the same offense, same defense, we’ve added a couple of guys on defense that are going to make a huge impact.”

But the question remains, do the Chargers have enough to dethrone the Chiefs who have had a six-year stranglehold in a loaded AFC West that also saw Russell Wilson join the Denver Broncos, and Davante Adams and Chandler Jones link up in Las Vegas with the Raiders?

The Chargers won’t make any bold declarations in advance of the regular season but they aren’t shy about expressing lofty goals.

“Super Bowl, man. Everybody knows that. We got to make it to that Super Bowl, not just the playoffs,” James said to USA TODAY Sports. “We got to make it there. We got the team, and we got the roster. We can do it.”

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While all 32 teams this time of year will claim they have Super Bowl expectations -- and such statements by many clubs should be viewed as delusional -- the Chargers might just have a roster talented enough to realistically be a contender. The team’s core players of Herbert, Williams, Jackson, Mack, James, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Rashawn Slater, Corey Linsley and Joey Bosa are all signed at least through the 2023 season.

If the Chargers don’t at least break their three-year playoff drought, the season should be viewed as a huge disappointment. They are aware that there’s increased national attention and the expectation is for them to be in the postseason.

“It’s better to get good attention than bad attention. It’s cool but at the end of the day, the guys in the locker room know what we got to do and know what it takes to get to where we need to be,” Williams said to USA TODAY Sports. “We can’t take any game lightly. Play every game like it’s our last game. That’s the main thing. Don’t play to your opponent, just come out every day and play like it’s your last play and we’ll see where we end up.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Los Angeles Chargers poised to contend this season