Grading Every San Diego Chargers' Major Offseason Move to Date
When asked about his team's interest in free agency during the offseason, San Diego Chargers GM Tom Telesco answered last March "There's a time and place, but that time and place for it is not this year."
And yet, the Bolts still made some headline moves over the course of about three months. So what grades do the Chargers deserve for their major offseason moves?
In retrospect, San Diego made six major offseason moves. These six players were chosen for grading because they will, without a doubt, have the greatest impact on the team in 2013
Here are grades for the players Telesco and the Chargers went after in the free agent market.
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Role: Blocking TE
2012 Stats: 8 REC, 55 YDS, 1 TD
Notes: Missed all of 2010 with torn ACL; underwent recent shoulder surgery in offseason
Analysis: Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton described John Phillips as a "grinder of a blocker" in an article on Southwest Riverside News Network, and ESPN's AFC West blogger Bill Williamson labeled Phillips as a "premier blocker" in his blog.
From the looks of it, the consensus is that Phillips will be the Chargers' blocking tight end. As a former backup to Jason Witten in Dallas, Phillips didn't get to see the ball all that much, but there's reason to believe he's more than a one-trick pony.
In 2011, the former Cowboy caught 15 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown despite his limited role as a passing option.
Next season, Phillips will likely take over the duties that Randy McMichael once held with the Chargers. Even as a blocking tight end, McMichael caught 59 passes in three seasons with the Bolts, meaning Phillips will definitely have the opportunity to utilize his pass-catching abilities with his new team.
The injury history with Phillips is a bit concerning, but in the three seasons that he's been healthy he hasn't missed a game.
Why?: San Diego loses veteran leadership in McMichael and a decent pass-catcher, but bringing in Phillips for a three-year deal at the ripe age of 26 is a plus for a team that is trying to get younger.
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Role: Starting LG
Notes: Started 17 games in three seasons with Buffalo; placed on IR last season with ankle injury
Analysis: Injuries throughout his career caused Chad Rinehart to wash out in Washington and Buffalo. However, at 28 years old, there may still be a chance that the former third-round pick can get his act together and make an impact with a team.
With Joe D'Allessandris taking over duties as offensive line coach for the Chargers after holding the same position with the Bills from 2010-12, Rinehart will be under the guidance of a familiar face. As it stands right now post-OTAs and minicamp, Rinehart is being penciled in as the starter at left guard according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Rinehart will likely face competition for his spot during training camp from fellow free-agent pickup Rich Ohrnberger and second-year man Johnnie Troutman.
Why?: There are some experts out there like Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton who have heard Rinehart is a gem of a pickup for the Chargers, but the track record isn't showing that. Rinehart is a nice veteran addition for the offensive line and definite upgrade from what the team had last season, but he's not a proven 16-game starter.
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Role: Starting CB
2012 Stats: 60 TCKL, 4 INT
Notes: Placed on IR in 2011 with knee injury; missed four games last season with injured hamstring
Analysis: Even with all the injuries the past three seasons, Derek Cox was one of the better young cornerbacks available on the market this offseason. The former Jacksonville Jaguar excelled in press coverage and had a knack for making a play on the ball. Cox had four interceptions in all but one of his four seasons with the Jags.
In San Diego, Cox will be plugged in as an immediate starter, but he'll face the challenge of playing in an inexperienced secondary. The 26 year old had the luxury of starting opposite a 10-year veteran in Rashean Mathis with Jacksonville, but in 2013 he'll likely be paired with second-year man Shareece Wright, who has yet to start a game.
Why?: Locking in Cox for a four-year deal was the right move for the Chargers. Still young and relatively productive, Cox fills a much-needed position, and can be a long-term option in San Diego.
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Role: Third-down RB
2012 Stats: 40 REC, 446 YDS, 3 TD
Notes: Missed just two games in past three seasons with New England
Analysis: Of all the moves San Diego made in free agency, Danny Woodhead has to be the most promising of the bunch. While the coaching staff and front office have faith in Ryan Mathews as a feature back, the need for a true third-down back has been looming in the Chargers' backfield for quite some time.
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted that he'd be "shocked if Woodhead didn't play a vast majority of third-downs" for the Chargers, with his reason being that Woodhead was a better blocker and more knowledgeable than anything else.
Add to that, his ability to run routes out of the backfield, and he becomes a solid target for Philip Rivers.
Why?: Coming off his best year receiving, Woodhead couldn't be a better fit with the Chargers, who are desperate for a third-down back.
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Role: Pass-rushing 3-4 OLB
2012 Stats: 12 TCKL, 5 SCK
Analysis: Chargers' GM Tom Telesco was quick to react when his defense was ravaged by a season-ending injury during OTAs. Upon hearing the news that Melvin Ingram went down with a torn ACL on May 14, Dwight Freeney was signed to a two-year deal six days later.
With Freeney, the Chargers are getting a veteran pass-rushing specialist capable of reaching sack numbers in the double digits even in his mid-30s. How he'll be used exactly is still up in the air, but he'll be effective nonetheless.
Why?: Freeney and the Chargers are a good fit in terms of the needed pass rush, but there is some concern as to whether the 33-year-old can function at outside linebacker. Freeney's last stint in Indianapolis didn't go all that well after the Colts converted to a 3-4 defense.
Still, there is a belief that Chargers' defensive coordinator John Pagano will use multiple fronts to utilize his new weapon.
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Role: Starting LT
Notes: 16-game starter at LT in 2012 for Pittsburgh
Analysis: After the Chargers picked up King Dunlap in free agency it seemed like every deal for a veteran offensive tackle lost steam. Eric Winston skipped out on San Diego, as did Bryant McKinnie, but the Chargers were able to come away with a suitable veteran in former Pittsburgh Steeler Max Starks.
The 31 year old isn't the long-term answer for San Diego at left tackle, but he'll do for the time being. Anything will be better than the combination of Jared Gaither, Mike Harris and Kevin Haslam, which the team used last season.
Why: Starks is definitely a better option than what the Chargers started out with in the offseason, but he's no All-Pro left tackle either. It's a great move by the front office, but not the best of the offseason.