San Diego Chargers - TeamReport

NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT

While the rest of the NFL gets busy with their offseason work this week, excuse the San Diego Chargers for putting their feet up.

That's not to say Chargers general manager Tom Telesco won't be sending out feelers and monitoring the free-agent market.

It's just that with a little more than $5 million in salary-cap space that Chargers don't figure to be big players.

There's that, as well as them already checking items off their to-do list.

The Chargers stayed in-house when it came to writing checks.

Inside linebacker Donald Butler was secured. Special-teams captain and safety Darrell Stuckey has been re-signed through a four-year deal. Guard Chad Rinehart's signature found a Chargers contract on a two-year contract.

And wide receiver Eddie Royal and outside linebacker Jarret Johnson were convinced to restructure their existing contracts.

That's quite a haul, and oh yeah, now the free-agency party begins.

The Chargers, despite breaking their three-year run of missing the playoffs last season, need help. It's just that they have a limited amount of dough. And their blueprint is for getting things accomplished during the draft, where the Chargers have seven picks, its first one at No. 25.

If Telesco can match last spring's haul when he snagged three starters with his first three picks -- tackle D.J. Fluker, linebacker Manti Te'o and wide receiver Keenan Allen -- he'll be ecstatic.

So Telesco figures to be on the sidelines instead of seeking the spotlight when the free-agent signings are announced.

It's expected the Chargers will be savvy, letting the market settle before dipping their toe in the free-agent waters. And when (if?) they do sign someone, look for them to seek a second-tier free-agent, something Telesco did with a flair last year.

That occurred with the first-day addition of running back Donald Brown.

His handiwork during his first offseason as an general manager was evident in the Chargers' sprint toward the AFC's divisional round of the playoffs.

Among the free agents he acquired were running back Danny Woodhead, left tackle King Dunlap and Rinehart.

None of those signings caused a stampede toward the Chargers' box office. But they all paid off, which helped compensate for his stinker of a signing: cornerback Derek Cox, who was recently released.

So with the NFL swinging open the gates of free agency, Telesco and the Chargers will bide their time. As well as reflect on what has already been a busy offseason, as they kept many core players off the market.


NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES

--Inside linebacker Donald Butler admitted the weight of his contract situation was weighing on him. Butler signed a multi-year deal with the Chargers and he's not shy about expressing how grateful he is. "It's a burden off of my shoulders," said Butler, a defensive team captain. "I don't have to worry about it because I know that I'll be a Charger for years to come, and I couldn't be more happy." Butler's deal is basically a three-year, $30 million contract, with a club option after the third year which could extend it to seven years and worth $48 million.

--The Chargers cut ties with cornerback Johnny Patrick, fullback Le'Ron McClain and Derek Cox.

--Center Nick Hardwick debunked speculation that he might be retiring when informing the team he would be returning before the NFL Scouting Combine.

--Wide receiver Malcom Floyd is stepping up his offseason workouts but his status for next season remains in doubt after he suffered a serious neck injury early last season.

--The Chargers, as did the rest of the AFC West, drew the NFC East last year for part of its schedule, a year in which that division struggled. Next year the AFC West gets to tangle with the NFC West, which for the Chargers includes games against the Super Bowl winning Seahawks, Rams, 49ers and Cardinals. In fact when considering AFC West-foe Denver, the Chargers will face both of last season's Super Bowls -- the Broncos, twice -- which is among the reasons why the Chargers have the NFL's fourth-toughest schedule. The Chargers will also entertain the Patriots.


NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL


--CORNERBACK: The team thought it erased this shortcoming with last year's free-agency signing of Derek Cox. But he was a bust, and for the most part, so was the Chargers' pass defense.

--WIDE RECEIVER: Rookie Keenan Allen was a find and now the team needs to locate someone who scares defenses to play opposite him. Allen will be a key focal point of defensive coordinators next year so he'll need some help.

--DEFENSIVE TACKLE: The Chargers have plus-players in their 3-4 alignment in ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes. But to be a stout 3-4, a stud has to clog the middle. The Chargers are seeking said stud. The Chargers could be seeking a pass-rusher, too, but are hopeful linebackers Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney can supply a push, which makes defensive tackle a bigger need.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--ILB Bront Bird (not tendered as ERFA) had 25 tackles in 16 games, which included two starts.

--G/C Steve Schilling (not tendered as ERFA) played in seven games last season.


--WR Seyi Ajirotitu has bailed the Chargers out on numerous occasions as he enjoys a great relationship with QB Philip Rivers. That was proven when he won the game against the Chiefs in the closing seconds. But his Chargers stay is likely coming to a close, although he added to his worth with his special teams play.

--WR Danario Alexander is a prime target but the trouble is he is too often on a doctor's operating table. Alexander was a find in 2012, but missed last year with another knee injury. In all, he's had seven operations on his knees and there's no guarantee he will be able to go next season.

--RB Ronnie Brown is on the wrong side of 30 which means the Chargers will try to get younger and cheaper at this position. But he'll always have his long touchdown run in the playoff win over the Bengals to be remembered by.

--WR Lavelle Hawkins was a late-season addition after some injuries hit, but the Chargers will likely let him go. Although, he did return kicks toward the end of the year and that is a position the Chargers still need to fill.

--CB Richard Marshall came on when supplanting Derek Cox in the starting lineup. His appearance coincided with the Chargers' pass defense showing a spark down the stretch. With Derek Cox being released, that helps Marshall's chances of sticking around. Marshall just might be in the Chargers' plans after collecting 61 tackles.

--G Rich Ohrnberger started a game and played in 12 others as he provided depth after various injuries caused the front line to be in a near constant state of flux. He's not a starter and won't get starting coin. But the Chargers like his work ethic and he stays at the right price.

--DT Cam Thomas was given every opportunity to prove he could be the plug in the middle of the team's 3-4 defense. He did OK but was eventually supplanted in the starting lineup by Sean Lissemore. The Chargers are eager to get better here.

--ILB Reggie Walker was a godsend when Manti Te'o was battling his foot injury in the beginning of the season. And he could be brought back at the right price, as he was a heady and productive player. His 42 tackles were fourth among Chargers linebackers.

--QB Charlie Whitehurst is, if nothing else, well-rested after his second straight season of not attempting a pass. He did get some mop-up action in two games; he gives the Chargers a backup with starting experience after his two-year stint in Seattle. He'll likely stay for the right price with the team fond of his work ethic and attitude.




--LB Donald Butler: Potential UFA; $51.8M/7 yrs, $11.15M SB/$12M OB 2017.

--G/T Chad Rinehart: Potential UFA; $6M/2 yrs.

--S Darrell Stuckey: Potential UFA; terms unknown.


--TE David Johnson: UFA Steelers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.


--CB Derek Cox (released).

--FB Le'Ron McClain (released).

--CB Johnny Patrick (released).