Ranking the Biggest Free Agency Priorities for the San Diego Chargers
As shown above, even Takeo Spikes ran out of "chill pills" during last season.
San Diego's 7-9 record was their worst since they went 4-12 in 2003. It was also their worst finish in the Norv Turner era. Dean Spanos had to make a change, and he did. Both Turner and A.J. Smith were replaced by Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco.
Now that a new era is upon us, it's time we look into the future.
5. Strong Safety
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Atari Bigby went on injured reserve in Week 13, leaving the Chargers searching for their strong safety once again. Arguably, they've been searching for their strong safety ever since Rodney Harrison left the team in 2003.
Bigby is under contract for another season, so he'll be in the running for the starting position. Corey Lynch is a free agent this offseason, and if he's re-signed, it would be for special teams purposes only. Lynch would likely not be in the competition for starting safety. Brandon Taylor is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered at the end of last season, so his return may be later in 2013.
Telesco will need to add some veteran safeties to compete with Atari Bigby for that starting position in training camp.
Charles Woodson, who was just released by the Green Bay Packers, has stated that he wants to continue playing in the NFL. He made it clear that he wants to join a contender for next season, so that might take the Chargers out of his choices. He's probably out of San Diego's price range anyways.
James Sanders, who played for the Arizona Cardinals in 2012 and is also a former Patriot, is a free agent and will choose the best offer this offseason. Sanders is 29 years old and is a California native.
Another player that would make sense for the Chargers is Kenny Phillips from the New York Giants. It would be surprising if they didn't re-sign him, but if they don't, San Diego should jump all over him. One thing they can't and won't do is get into a bidding war with another team this offseason.
There's absolutely no way the Chargers draft a safety in this year's draft, unless a player they can't pass up is available. This position should be fixed in free agency, not the draft.
4. Running Back
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Recently, Tom Telesco stated that he believes in Ryan Mathews. He says that he can be a "bell cow" back for the Chargers.
It's not hard to recognize Mathews' talent when he's running the ball. His explosiveness and agility makes it difficult to call him a bust based on his injury issues.
Does it help that he has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL? No, not at all. Until San Diego gets a consistent front line blocking for No. 24, we can't call him a bust.
Telesco also stated that a two-back system is something he wants. "Would we like a complement back? There's no doubt about it, I'm a big believer in two backs."
Reggie Bush is the first guy that comes to mind. Telesco may have to pay a little extra to get Bush, but coming back to his hometown would be quite enticing.
Having Ryan Mathews and Reggie Bush in the same backfield would be outstanding. Mathews and Bush's style of play is quite similar, so it'd be more of a one-two punch, rather than a change-of-pace system.
Rashad Jennings, Jalen Parmele and Felix Jones are three players the Chargers could make a run at as well. Other guys like Ahmad Bradshaw and Steven Jackson would be too pricey for San Diego.
3. Offensive Guard
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One of the first priorities for Telesco is to re-sign Louis Vasquez during free agency. According to reports from the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Indianapolis Colts will make a run at Louis Vasquez. Jimmy Raye, former director of player personnel, is now on the Colts' staff.
Of the four offensive guards on the Chargers depth chart, Louis Vasquez is by far the best. Johnnie Troutman, who sat out his entire rookie season with an injury, will compete for playing time in 2013 as well. Tyronne Green and Rex Hadnot are also free agents, so the Chargers have their work cut out for them this offseason.
Andy Levitre would be the perfect guy to sign, but is likely out of the Chargers' price range. (That will probably be a big reason a lot of players are not signed in free agency.)
Kevin Boothe and Matt Slauson would be within San Diego's price range. Boothe excels in run-blocking and avoiding penalties, although he must get better in pass protection. That's in high regard with the Chargers.
Slauson is the exact opposite as Boothe. Slauson is much better in pass-blocking, but must improve in run-blocking.
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Unless Quentin Jammer is moved to safety, it's unlikely he returns to San Diego for next season. Antoine Cason should end up on another team's roster come next year as well.
The Chargers will have four cornerbacks under contract when free agency begins: Marcus Gilchrist, Shareece Wright, Johnny Patrick and Greg Gatson.
None of those four defensive backs are ready to start for San Diego. Shareece Wright has the potential to become a consistent corner in the league and Marcus Gilchrist should be a very good slot corner, but should have trouble converting to the outside.
Marcus Trufant should be playing in San Diego next season. His younger brother, Desmond Trufant, will be drafted in the first or second round in April. Before the combine, the Chargers had the chance at drafting Desmond, but he's most likely a first-round prospect now.
Marcus, on the other hand, will be available. He's 32 years old, making him less expensive than many other corners.
1. Offensive Tackle
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The biggest terror to Chargers fans is the tackle position. Whether it's Jeromey Clary on the right side or Jared Gaither and Mike Harris on the left side, 2012 was a season full of disappointment from every offensive tackle on the roster.
Telesco knows this is an area that needs major improvement. In his first statement regarding Jared Gaither, Telesco said that he wants to talk to him:
I can’t make any decisions based on what people have told me. It’s a new regime. I’ve got to get to know everybody. I’ll take opinions from everybody. In the end, it’s our decisions. Will he be back for training camp? I don’t know. I’ve barely talked to him. We have a lot of work to do.
If Gaither is cut, would they attempt to sign a player like Jake Long? Sebastian Volmer or Will Beatty could end up in San Diego as well if they aren't kept by their respective teams.