With the signing of free agent cornerback Donald Strickland, the San Diego Chargers appear to have addressed one glaring hole on the team.
Strickland is ideally suited for the nickel back role, providing depth to a San Diego team that was compelled to use safeties in nickel and dime packages last season. He will at least enter training camp behind Antoine Cason on the depth chart.
But the former Jet is also a veteran with enough experience and ability to step into the starting role should Cason falter. Depending on the progression of training camp and the preseason he may even earn the job outright.
This gives San Diego a solid safety net going into the draft. With primary needs at running back and nose tackle already, a third position in need of a first- or second-round talent made sorting out the draft especially difficult.
Now the team can focus on the two dire-need areas, and concern themselves with getting the best player available to fill the host of other smaller needs, with less of a panic towards getting the choice absolutely right.
They still could use one more corner if a later-round project is available. Quentin Jammer is 31 and while still performing at a high level, he will eventually need to be supplanted. That player would now have time to be groomed and learn to play at an NFL level, instead of being thrown to the wolves in his first season.
Waiting until deeper into the draft, it also frees up the third and fourth rounds for San Diego to look to other positions that are currently filled, but could use upgrades.
In addition, they could easily be holding three picks in those two rounds if one of the teams interested in the services of third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst decides to sign the restricted free agent before the draft.
At defensive end, Luis Castillo and Jacques Cesaire form an adequate pairing. They occupy space and tie up offensive tackles to give the linebacking corps room to work. Behind them the team resigned veteran Alphonso Boone to give them a respectable rotation.
But if they can find a player that could push Cesaire for the starting role it would improve the team considerably. Cesaire is an ideal third defensive end, a ham-and-egger not really up to par with full-time starter’s duties.
Tyson Alualu could fall to San Diego in the third round, as a great defensive end prospect who could potentially contribute to the pass rush as well. Before other needs precluded looking at such a talent at the position, but now it might just be possible.
Right tackle can also be examined now. Jeremy Clary was likely to default into the position barring a late-draft pick showing extremely well at camp.
Now a mid-round tackle could be brought in to compete for the job, and push Clary back to his ideal location—rotational sixth offensive lineman. At the very least, drafting a tackle from one tier above where they would have otherwise had to look could put up some solid competition for Clary.
Subtle but effective signings are what separate good teams from elite teams. New England maintained steady success over a long period of time signing key veterans who weren’t splashy Haynesworth-type deals, but the right moves in the right places.
If San Diego can find itself taking that same path, signing a few significant additions instead of Smith’s historical nearly draft-exclusive regime, then San Diego’s path to success may have just taken a great step forward.
For someone who may only situationally see the field, Donald Strickland’s signing give solid optimism at this point in the offseason. Now it just remains to be seen how the rest plays out.