The Los Angeles Chargers on Monday announced they’ve placed the “non exclusive” franchise tag on outside linebacker Melvin Ingram. He is only the seventh player in team history the Bolts have used the tag on, and the first since Vincent Jackson in 2011.
Ingram was set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9, and the Chargers can still negotiate a multi-year contract with the edge rusher through July 15. However, after that date he must play on the tag and will be unable to sign a new contract until after the 2017 season. His contract for this season would be the average of the top five salaries at his position from last year.
Other teams are able to negotiate and sign Ingram to a deal once the new league year begins on March 9. However, the Chargers have the right to match any offer. Should they decline, the Bolts would receive two first round draft picks from Ingram’s new team.
Originally selected 18th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft out of South Carolina, Ingram has totaled 224 tackles, 46 tackles for loss, and 24.5 sacks in five seasons with the Chargers. The 6-2, 247-pounder has emerged as one of the top pass rushers in the NFL over the past two seasons while not missing a single game. His 18.5 sacks since the start of 2015 are tied for 12th most in the League.
After playing in all 16 games as a rookie, Ingram was limited to just 13 regular season games in 2013-14 due to a myriad of injuries. He tore his ACL during offseason workouts in 2013, but defied the odds to return for the final four regular season games. The Bolts won four straight following his return to reach the post-season. He also played a pivotal role in the Wild Card win over the Cincinnati Bengals, picking off Andy Dalton for his first career interception.
Unfortunately, Ingram suffered a hip injury two games into 2014 that forced him to the Reserve-Injured, Designated to Return list. He came back and played in the final seven games of the season, totaling four sacks and seven tackles for loss on the year.
Ingram transformed his body the following offseason, and reaped the rewards with a breakout 2015 campaign. He became the first Charger to record double-digit sacks (10.5) since Antwan Barnes in 2011, and set career-highs in tackles (76), tackles for loss (19) and forced fumbles (four).
Ingram continued to wreak havoc on quarterbacks last season, ranking second on the team with eight sacks. He also totaled 66 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and a team-high 23 QB hits. Ingram was named a defensive captain in early 2016 following Manti Te’o’s season-ending Achilles injury.