Chargers position outlook 2018: Casey Hayward proves he's elite

Casey Hayward had four interceptions in 2017 on his way to earning his second Pro Bowl invitation. Harry How/Getty Images

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The defensive backfield was one of the strengths for the Los Angeles Chargers last season.

Casey Hayward turned in a Pro Bowl performance for a second straight year, while Tre Boston led the team in interceptions with five. Trevor Williams emerged as a solid option as the team’s No. 2 cornerback with Jason Verrett missing a second straight season due to a knee injury.

Locks: Jahleel Addae, Jason Verrett, Casey Hayward, Desmond King, Trevor Williams

Looking good: Rayshawn Jenkins, Michael Davis

On the bubble: Craig Mager, Jeff Richards, A.J. Hendy

Free agents: Tre Boston, Adrian Phillips

The good: Hayward proved 2016 was no fluke, finishing with four interceptions and second in the NFL with 26 pass breakups in earning his second Pro Bowl invitation. Hayward also was voted second-team All Pro and has developed into one of the best cornerbacks in the game. As a team, the Chargers finished with 18 interceptions (tied for sixth in the NFL) and allowed just 197 passing yards a contest (No. 3 in the league). Oakland Raiders WR Amari Cooper is the only player to finish with at least 100 receiving yards against the Chargers last season (three catches for 115 receiving yards in the final game of the year). King finished with four sacks, 76 tackles and an interception returned 90 yards for a touchdown. King’s four sacks ties him with Rodney Harrison (1997 and 1998) for the second-most sacks by a defensive back in a single season in team history. Harrison tops the list with six in 2000.

The bad: Verrett suffered a season-ending knee injury for a second straight season, missing 15 games in 2017. A first-round selection by the Chargers in the 2014 draft, the TCU product has missed 39 games in four seasons. However, the Chargers and Verrett are hopeful he can make a successful return to the field this offseason. The Chargers at times struggled to get running backs on the ground in the back end defensively, giving up six plays of 40-plus yards on the ground, tied with the New York Jets for worst in the NFL. Jenkins finished with five accepted penalties, all on special teams.

The money: Hayward is set to make $4.25 million in total compensation in the final year of a three-year deal. The Chargers should consider offering the Vanderbilt product a contract extension. Verrett will make $8.256 million on the fifth-year of his rookie deal. Addae will make $5 million in total compensation in the second year of his four-year, $22.5 million deal. Boston is an unrestricted free agent and Phillips is a restricted free agent.

Draft priority: Depending on what happens with Boston in free agency, the Chargers could be eyeing a playmaking safety at the top of the draft board. At 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, Florida State’s Derwin James certainly makes some sense. The Chargers appear to have good depth at cornerback heading into 2018, but GM Tom Telesco is always looking to build depth at the position because of its importance on defense.