Chargers 2023 free agency tracker: Tight end Donald Parham, punter JK Scott re-signing

NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2023 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began Wednesday, which means free-agent signings could be made official after that. The first round of the 2023 NFL draft begins April 27 on ESPN.

Ahead of the free agency window opening, the Los Angeles Chargers assured they would be under the salary cap and not lose any major names by restructuring the contracts of edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, a league source told ESPN's Field Yates, which created a combined $40.37 million in salary cap space and left the team with $19 million in cap space.

On Tuesday, star running back Austin Ekeler was granted permission to seek a trade after extension talks stalled, his agent told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Here's a breakdown of every 2023 NFL free-agent signing by the Chargers and how each will impact the upcoming season:

JK Scott, punter

What it means: An unrestricted free agent, the Chargers' ability to re-sign Scott for two years cannot be overstated. The Chargers have struggled for years on special teams but experienced a significant turnaround in most phases last season. Scott played a crucial role in that improvement, pinning 15% of his punts (ranked ninth) inside the 10-yard line. He provides stability at the position going forward.

What's the risk: This is a low-risk deal for the Chargers. Scott, 27, proved himself durable, playing in all 17 games and a wild-card playoff last season, and capable of making big punts when needed.

Donald Parham Jr., tight end

What it means: The Chargers lack depth behind starter Gerald Everett and were in need of addressing it this offseason. A restricted free agent, the Chargers did not tender Parham but were able to re-sign him in free agency to a one-year contract. His return for a fourth season provides consistency in the group and, if he remains healthy, he already has a relationship established with quarterback Justin Herbert and knowledge of the offense.

What's the risk: Parham has struggled to remain healthy the past two seasons. In Dec. 2021, he suffered a serious concussion that caused hospitalization. Last season, Parham dealt with a nagging hamstring issue that began in training camp and ultimately caused him to be placed on injured reserve. In 33 career games, including 15 starts, Parham has caught 40 passes for 479 yards and seven touchdowns.

Morgan Fox, defensive end

What it means: Fox is coming off a career-best season -- producing a career-high 6.5 sacks and 38 tackles -- after reuniting with coach Brandon Staley, who served as his defensive coordinator in 2020 with the Rams. In a position group decimated by injuries in 2022, Fox was available for each contest and going forward is expected to provide that same consistency and playmaking ability.

What's the risk: There's the risk that Fox's production last season was an anomaly and that it could drop off. However, he's played the best football of his career under Staley and he's also proven durable with an ability to remain healthy. This is a low-risk signing given his dependability as a role player.

Trey Pipkins III, right tackle

Pipkins agreed to a three-year deal to return to the Chargers, a source confirmed to ESPN.

What it means: Scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, Pipkins became a priority for the Chargers to re-sign after proving himself at right tackle in 2022 despite battling through a nagging knee injury. "He is tough," general manager Tom Telesco said at the conclusion of the season. "He played through some things that are really difficult. To see his development from the time he got here to now, I’m proud of him of how much work he’s put into it." If the Chargers had not retained Pipkins, there would have been significant questions about their long-term ability to effectively fill the right tackle position. Instead, the 26-year-old's return provides continuity in the protection of quarterback Justin Herbert.

What's the risk: Offensive tackles are difficult to find and afford in free agency, so keeping a player the Chargers selected with a third-round pick in 2019 and who is continuing to develop poses little risk. Pipkins missed three games in 2022 because of a nagging MCL sprain, but an offseason of rest and recovery should result in Pipkins returning to full health for the 2023 season.

Easton Stick, quarterback

What it means: The Chargers agreed to terms on a one-year deal with scheduled unrestricted free agent Easton Stick ahead of the free agency negotiating window, sources confirmed to ESPN. With Stick's return, the Chargers solidify their backup quarterback situation behind starter Justin Herbert. Over the last two seasons, the Chargers have kept two backups but are expected to go only with Stick in 2023 with a roster stacked with rich contracts and Herbert on the clock for a mega-extension.

What's the risk: This is a low-risk deal. Stick provides continuity and stability in the quarterback room having spent four seasons with the Chargers. If the need arises, he should be able to step in for Herbert at a moment's notice with a great understanding of the system and how to play to his strengths within it.

Eric Kendricks, linebacker

Former Minnesota Vikings LB Eric Kendricks will join the Chargers on a two-year deal, sources confirmed to ESPN.

What it means: The Chargers fill a position in need with Kendricks, a ninth-year pro who last season led the Vikings with 137 tackles. In L.A., Kendricks will step into a starting role vacated by unrestricted free agent Drue Tranquill, who the Bolts are not expected to retain. Kendricks joins a defense that, if healthy, should contend as a top unit in the NFL, featuring edge rushers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James III.

What's the risk: A two-year deal is low-risk for the Chargers, especially given Kendricks' proven track record as a playmaker. He was available for all 17 games last season. If there is some cause for concern, it would be that he is 31 years old and has dealt with injuries since being named an All Pro in 2019. Kendricks missed five games in 2020 because of a calf injury and dealt with various ailments in 2021 but ultimately was sidelined for only two games.