Predicting the Last 5 In, Last 5 out for San Diego Chargers' Final 53-Man Roster
I don't envy Mike McCoy's challenge to select the final 53-man roster for the San Diego Chargers.
The current batch of 90 players bound for training camp is loaded with promise, and the expectation for McCoy and his staff is to put together another playoff-caliber team. General manager Tom Telesco has given McCoy the pieces in free agency and in the draft to succeed, but only the perfect blend of 53 will allow San Diego to finish 2014 on a positive note.
Sometimes the last decisions are the hardest ones to make. Here are the last five in and last five out for the Chargers.
Out: Crezdon Butler
The additions of Brandon Flowers in free agency and Jason Verrett in the draft will make for a heated competition at corner when training camp rolls around.
Of the 10 corners heading into camp, it's possible San Diego only carries six on the final roster.
Flowers, Verrett and Shareece Wright will likely be the first group. I expect Richard Marshall and Steve Williams to play their way into the second group. Joining Marshall and Williams should be either Brandon Ghee or Crezdon Butler.
Butler played 12 games for the Chargers in 2013, totaling three tackles and a forced fumble that helped clinch a victory over Dallas in Week 4. In place of the injured Wright during a Week 3 matchup with Tennessee, Butler gave up the game-winning touchdown to rookie wideout Justin Hunter.
Ghee, who came over from Cincinnati in the offseason, will push Butler for that final spot.
In: Tourek Williams
Not every sixth-round draft choice is given the opportunity to play in 13 games his rookie year, but injuries to Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram opened the door for Tourek Williams in 2013. He finished with 10 tackles and a strip-sack of Peyton Manning in Week 10.
While competition among edge-rushers will be fierce in camp, an experienced Williams will be one to watch, according to his teammate Jarret Johnson, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN: "Tourek is the one that's been pretty interesting to me how much he's gained over the offseason -- just how much more mature he is. He's the one that I think is going to have a huge year."
San Diego has eight outside linebackers on its roster heading into camp, five of which are veterans. Keeping Williams on the active roster may require cutting one or more of those veterans.
Out: Larry English
Cutting Larry English wouldn't come as a cost-effective move for San Diego, as he is only scheduled to make about $1.5 million next season, but Tom Telesco may feel the need to continue clearing the roster of pieces from the A.J. Smith era that have simply failed to work.
A few weeks ago, the Chargers released former 2012 draft choice Brandon Taylor, who struggled to get back on the field after suffering a torn ACL his rookie year. English has battled injuries his entire career, and his play on the field has been just as disappointing.
Depth at outside linebacker will be heavy as it is with a healthy Freeney and Ingram returning plus the addition of Jeremiah Attaochu in the draft.
In: Jeromey Clary
The rumblings in the offseason regarding Jeromey Clary's future in San Diego hinted at a possible exit due mostly to his bloated $4.55 million salary for next season, but for the moment, Clary remains a Charger despite the fact he was physically unable to participate in OTAs because of hip and shoulder surgeries.
The Chargers drafted Chris Watt in the third round to push Clary for his starting job, but I still think experience wins out, at least in 2014.
Clary has a familiarity with the offense and provides versatility at guard or tackle. He may not be the most talented individual on the offensive line, but as part of the group, he played well enough to help Ryan Mathews to a career year and keep Philip Rivers off his back compared to the year prior.
Out: John Phillips
The emergence of Ladarius Green can't be good for John Phillips, and neither is the signing of former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end David Johnson—a blocking tight end who does a lot of the same things Phillips was brought in for last season.
When Phillips tore his ACL in December, Green was granted extended playing time alongside Antonio Gates, and we were treated with flashes of immense potential from the second-year man out of Louisiana-Lafayette. I expect a larger role for Green heading into next season and don't see Phillips making the final cut.
In: Kwame Geathers
Kwame Geathers got his feet wet as an undrafted free agent in 2013, playing in seven games for the Chargers with four tackles. The selection of Ryan Carrethers in this year's draft poses a threat to Geathers in training camp, but I think San Diego will opt to carry three defensive tackles on the roster and see how they perform in cohesion with the defensive line.
Out: Kerwynn Williams
The Chargers have high hopes that Kerwynn Williams will have some sort of impact on the return game, so says Telesco, per Eric D. Williams:
Special teams wise, it would be nice to add a return game with some dynamic ability there. We've got two guys here that we have pretty high hopes for with Kerwynn Williams and Tobais Palmer, which were two of the better returners in college last year when they came out, so we'll see what they have.
Telesco made those comments before May's draft and before the arrival of Arizona State running back Marion Grice, who just so happens to be quite the return man. Williams' abilities as a returner will be far more coveted than his contributions in the running game, so if he can't make a difference there, then he won't make the cut.
In: Steve Williams
Steve Williams, a fifth-round draft choice of San Diego last year, hasn't played a snap in the NFL, but he'll still be treated to a roster spot given the team's poor play in the secondary in 2013.
A torn pectoral forced Williams to miss his entire rookie season, and he missed a perfect opportunity to garner playing time early with Derek Cox struggling like he was.
San Diego got better in the offseason with additions in Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett, which should make a roster spot a little more difficult to come by, but I think the coaching staff is excited to see what they get from Williams in his first true year playing for the Bolts.
Out: Dontrelle Inman
Dontrelle Inman will make the team's decision to keep him a difficult one. He shined in the CFL the past two years with the Toronto Argonauts, but his second crack at an NFL roster may not be a success given the depth at receiver.
His size at 6'3", 205 pounds is a tempting addition, but a healthy Malcom Floyd returning to the lineup should give San Diego all the size it needs in 2014. I wouldn't rule out Inman as someone the Chargers look at for their practice squad, however.
In: Thomas Keiser
Thomas Keiser was a surprise asset to San Diego when injuries depleted its pass rush early last season. The former Carolina Panther registered 21 tackles, 4.5 sacks and an interception of Peyton Manning that helped seal a victory in Denver.
Keiser benefited from the extra playing time he was given, but next season will be different with Freeney and Ingram back in the mix and Jeremiah Attaochu added to the rotation. Keiser won't be looked to for the same level of production, but his presence on the depth chart could still be needed if injuries become a problem like they were in 2013.
Freeney and Jarret Johnson both dealt with injuries and haven't gotten any younger after more than a decade in the NFL. How much longer will their bodies hold up?