Late last week multiple sports outlets reported that Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon will not show up to camp without a new contract. In addition, if they can not come to a deal, Gordon is demanding a trade. Gordons’ agent, Fletcher Smith, told the media that he and his client are dug in on the matter. Reportedly, there has been no progress in negotiations which spurred them to take this drastic action.
Gordon is in is option year, set to make $5.6 million dollars. Given his production since being drafted in 2015, he has transformed into a top-5 running back in the NFL. Last season, he ranked fifth in yards from scrimmage. Over the last three seasons, he’s only second to Todd Gurley in carries with 1,079 and third in the league in touchdowns (38) and yards from scrimmage (5,205) over the last four seasons. Undoubtedly contributing to their decision making process are the recent long-term extensions given to fellow running back contemporaries Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (4-yrs, $60 million, with $45 million dollars guaranteed), Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (3-yrs, $39 million with $30 million dollars guaranteed) and Le’veon Bell (4-yrs, $52.5 million with $25 million dollars guaranteed). All three threatened to sit out until they got a new deal and only Bell actually sat out a season.
To holdout now will be the greatest leverage he has to use. The Chargers are coming off a 12-4 season highlighted (and lowlighted) by a trip into the AFC Divisional Round against the eventual Super Bowl champions, New England. The window of opportunity for Philip Rivers and company is now and Gordon is a big piece of the pie in that equation. At 26, this is the best time for Gordon to holdout. His value is at its peak, this is the moment of greatest need for his team with the Chargers ascending to championship contender status and he has proven himself to be a durable, reliable, elite dual-threat running back.
The only reason Bell didn’t succeed in getting paid with the Pittsburgh Steelers is because he waited until after he had been franchised twice. Bell and Gurley got their deals before the team had that control in their hands. The Chargers have the same leverage inasmuch that they can franchise tag Gordon for up to two more seasons at the league average of the top-5 running backs in the league. It’s in the Chargers’ best interest to get a long-term deal done or trade Gordon now as opposed digging in and letting him go (after sitting out the season) and getting nothing in return. Gordon loses all leverage by playing the season and allowing himself to get franchised for two seasons. What team is going to give a long-term contract with a boatload of guaranteed money to a 28-year old running back?
So what do the Chargers do?
The Chargers have a lot of big contracts of core players coming up at the end of 2020 and not a lot of cap space to sign them all. Rivers, Gordon, tight end Hunter Henry, linebacker Jatavis Brown, cornerback Trevor Williams, safety Adrian Phillips and center Mike Pouncey headline the players who will be looking to cash in on their on-field success. By the way, franchise defensive end Joey Bosa will be looking for big bucks at the end of the 2021 season. Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco has some big decisions to make and Gordon is forcing his name to the top of the list.
Without Gordon, the running back depth chart will be Austin Ekeler, second-year pro Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome and Troymaine Pope. Ekeler has proven his versatility and ability to make plays in space but the group behind him is unproven to say the least. Gordon, obviously is the element that takes this group from good to great. As seen by the recent signings of guys like Bell and Gurley plus the growing influx of backs that are as deadly catching the ball as they are running it; the devalued running back position is making a comeback. If Telesco makes a trade he is hamstrung because no team is going to make a fair offer knowing the position he is in. At best he may be able to acquire a package of draft picks. A first round pick isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
The Oakland Raiders received a first-round pick from the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for wide receiver Amari Cooper. Weeks earlier, they had received two first-round picks, a sixth-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick plus a conditional fifth-round selection for Khalil Mack. Cooper was coming off a down 2017 season and found himself lost in the wide receiver shuffle until newly-hired Raiders coach Jon Gruden shipped him out of town. Mack has established himself as a top-5 if not the best pass rusher in the league before Gruden sent him away. Gordon is closer to the Mack end of the spectrum than the Cooper end. The problem is draft picks are always a crapshoot. A package of picks including a first-rounder or two is all well and good, but it does not result in equal value and it does nothing for the loss of production for a team that is among the favorites to appear in the Super Bowl.
The other side of the coin is to sign Gordon and judging from the deals mentioned above, the terms are going to be in the neighborhood of a three- to f0ur-year deal worth $13- to 16-million dollars per year with two-thirds of that money guaranteed. Can the Chargers afford it? According to Sportrac, Over-The-Cap, ESPN Stats and Info and other sources, the Bolts have just under $11 million dollars in cap space. Still, cap space backdoors are known and utilized by ever GM in the league. Keeping Gordon keeps the Chargers consistent and on course for that long-awaited Super Bowl return. Keeping Gordon keeps the Chargers in place as the biggest threats to Kansas City, who will be heralded as the heir apparent to the Patriots’ franchise based on the trajectory of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is coming into this, his third season, on the heels of winning the NFL MVP award after his first season as the Chiefs starting QB.
As a fan and as a man who was there at the NFL Draft when Gordon was drafted, I want him to stay a Charger for life. I’ve met the man, had a conversation with him and shook his hand on the very first day he was tapped to be a Charger. He’s a solid guy, very kind, very active in the community and has a sparkling reputation as a teammate. That being said, I believe Gordon will be traded. I cannot blame the Chargers front office as much as I’d like to do so. The system is flawed with the way teams can get away with so many years of control before a player can cash in on a long-term deal. I can’t blame Gordon for holding out as much as I can’t blame the Chargers brass for wanting to hold onto control for as long as they can before backing the Brinks truck up to his door. Players are now getting wise to the fact that this is the road to hoe if they’re going to avoid overuse and get paid before getting stuck on a series of one-year contracts.
Whatever they decide, they don’t have long to do it. Gordon and Smith have established the beginning of training camp, July 24, as their hard line date to get a new contract done. If they don’t get a deal, they want the Chargers to start looking for trade partners. There’s no reason at this point to believe they won’t follow through on their threat since no new news has come through the pipeline since this story broke. I believe the Chargers will shop Gordon and take the best offer they can get. Having a disgruntled player in the fold will be a huge distraction to the team, the fan base and the bottom line knowing he is at home while the team is fighting for a playoff spot. If Gordon is gone everyone has no choice but to accept it and move on. The Chargers should be able to get a Khalil Mack-esque deal. It won’t be as good but comparable in the sense that it will be multiple picks and at least one first-round pick. Brace yourselves Chargers fans. It won’t be pretty but we know, now more than ever, how much of a business the NFL has become. May the football Gods have mercy on our souls….
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals for a week of practice leading up to their game Friday. The Cardinals begin practice at Chargers Park on Tuesday after having their home turf taken over by Guns N’ Roses’ massive arena tour on Monday. On Tuesday, practice will be at Qualcomm Stadium, Wednesday at Chargers Park. Both teams will take the day off Thursday to rest before the game Friday.
The joint practice will be a nice change-of-pace for both teams. Undoubtedly, they’re all tired of hitting each other in practice. One could expect the intensity level of practice to heighten with men in different colored jerseys on the opposite sideline. This will be a big week for the players fighting to make the roster.
Living in Phoenix, I have heard plenty of juicy tidbits coming from the Cardinals’ side of the ball. The Arizona Cardinals are a Super Bowl favorite and a great way for the Chargers to test themselves against one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians expressed his respect for Chargers’ head coach Mike McCoy on local radio Monday and talked about the joint practice.
“That’s the one thing, I enjoy working with Mike McCoy because we have the same philosophy.” Arians said. “We wouldn’t practice any different. We wouldn’t hit a guy going over the middle on our team in practice; we won’t hit one of their guys going over the middle. We always stay away from the quarterback.” Arians continued.
“It’s creating competition but it’s practice, and we’ve got 180 guys on the same team for three days. Then we’ll play them in the game and all bets are off.” Arians said on the Doug and Wolf morning radio show Monday.
More interestingly, Cardinals’ General Manager Steve Keim was also on the radio Monday talking about the road trip and made no bones about the fact he was looking to wheel and deal if the opportunity presents itself.
“I reached out to Tom Telesco last night and he and I will get together before practices start and talk about both of our rosters,” Keim started. “See where our deficiencies are you know; in hopes that you can always talk about, hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?” Keim stated.
This kind of talk goes on behind-the-scenes at every joint practice if the front office is worth their salt. There are two 90-man rosters full of guys playing their hardest to showcase their talents for their current team and whomever else may be watching. What’s curious about this case is that Keim, who does a radio segment every week in Phoenix, has made it no secret over the past two weeks that he will be actively pursuing a healthy exchange of ideas and hopefully players during this trip to San Diego.
Sounds like the Chargers have something the Cardinals want…
Let’s look at the possibilities. The Cardinals have a wealth of depth at their defensive line, wide receiver, secondary and running back positions. They are lacking on their offensive line, especially at right tackle. The Cards are currently starting D.J. Humphries. Humphries was their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Arians listed Humphries as inactive for every game last season because of his inability to grasp the playbook and laziness on the practice field. Humphries earned the unfortunate nickname “knee-deep” referring to Arians’ disposition with Humphries in 2015.
Arizona’s deficiencies at linebacker have been hidden due to the effectiveness of the secondary and defensive line. If the Cardinals plan on carrying a third quarterback, it won’t be NFL journeyman Matt Barkley or Jake Coker, an undrafted free agent signee out of Alabama. Both quarterbacks have been unimpressive in camp and in their first preseason game.
San Diego has an abundance of talent at linebacker where they currently have 15 linebackers on their roster. The Chargers also have better depth at tight end, quarterback and offensive tackle. The possibilities for a talent exchange is endless but I will give you five names to watch.
RB Andre Ellington: The Cardinals drafted Ellington in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Lower leg and foot injuries have derailed what was a phenomenal start to his career. Ellington is finally back to full strength from his injuries but with Chris Johnson (who led the NFL in rushing yards before he went down to injury in 2015), the emergence of David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor (considered the best pass protector of the group) and Kerwynn Williams on board, Ellington may be the odd man out. Ellington would be a great insurance policy for Melvin Gordon and he is an electrifying return man as well. Just how fast is Ellington? He ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 4.51-seconds with a pulled hamstring!
QB Mike Bercovici and G Vi Teofilo: Both of these men played their college ball right down the I-10 at Arizona State University. Bercovici has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks the Chargers have brought in during the offseason. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger are likely to be second and third on the quarterback depth chart unless Telesco sees enough promise in Bercovici to make one of the two expendable. Teofilo is a 6″3′-inch, 315-pound guard who fills a need for depth at that position.
CB Justin Bethel: In a very crowded Cardinals’ secondary room, Bethel has sat on the sidelines with a foot injury and watched as his job is threatened by rookie third-round pick Brandon Williams. Williams has wowed the coaching staff with one head-turning practice after another and is making the most of his quick ascension to the first team.
Bethel was a key piece of the Cardinals’ 2015 secondary as the number two cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. With Peterson locking down his side of the field, lots of balls came Bethels’ way and he was up to the task with 46 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles. Bethel was signed to a three-year, $15-million dollar contract extension in the offseason and made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year in 2015 as a special-teamer. Arians has a reputation for his disdain for players in the trainers’ room. Bethel could be moved if the price is right.
ILB Manti Te’o: Manti isn’t on the bubble but this is a contract year for him. Many stories are afloat about Te’o finally coming into his own as a leader. Foot injuries limited his effectiveness in his first two seasons but he finally showed what he is capable of in 2015 as he led the Chargers in tackles with 107 combined tackles. Te’o had a strong finish to his 2015 season, especially after Denzel Perryman was promoted to starter midway through the season. The two had an unspoken chemistry and played well off each other.
Why would the Chargers let him go now?
Te’o leaves you wanting more and not necessarily in a good way. Every missed tackle, every time a receiver catches a ball right in front of him, every time he’s left behind by a running back we shake our heads in frustration. To his credit, 2015 was hands down the best we’ve seen of him. However, there is a reason Telesco hasn’t offered him an extension when he has been diligently signing the Chargers’ core players to multi-year deals.
A Te’o-for-Bethel deal works for both sides.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
As you all may now know, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco got a three-year extension right before the start of the 2015 season. But did he deserve it? Here I breakdown his three draft classes, free agent classes and contract extensions. I will be grading by a very easy criteria: Performance (worth the draft pick, money, etc), Value (starter or depth) and if they’re still on the team. It will be broke down by a number scale of 0-10, 0 being very bad and 10 being very good. At the end of each section I will give a percentage and a letter grade to that category by adding up the number I give to the player and divide it by 10 (max number a player/move can get). 90-100% = A, 89-80% = B 79-70% = C, and anything below that is an F. Lets get to it:
His Draft Classes
***Note: these rankings are how they have played since joining the Chargers. 2015 draft class is too early to judge, I get that, but it’s on how they have played as a Charger.
2013: #11 OL DJ Fluker, #38 MLB Manti Te’o (traded up), #76 WR Keenan Allen, #145 CB Steve Williams, #179 OLB Tourek Williams, #221 QB Brad Sorenson
DJ Fluker: Started off as a Right Tackle and played fairly well in 2013 before injuries in 2014 set in and he was recently moved to Right Guard in the offseason. He didn’t play as well as hoped, but it was his first time ever being there so it wasn’t really unexpected. Grade: 6
Manti Te’o: Trading up in the draft for anyone who isn’t a playmaker is a very big loss no matter what you gave up to get said player. Manti has been battling injuries most his career and is still having troubles wrapping up and tackling NFL sized players. He isn’t terrible like Donald Butler and did play better next to Perryman. Grade: 5
Keenan Allen: This was the best draft pick Telesco has had and Keenan is quickly developing into one of the best receivers in the AFC. He was on a torrid pace this season leading the league in catches and yards and was well on his way to breaking records until he got hurt. Again. Ended the season on IR with a lacerated Kidney. Grade: 9
Steve Williams: Keenan’s roommate at Cal, he hasn’t really done much before this season and even ended his rookie year before it started. He’s looking more and more like depth than he is a solid part of the team and wouldn’t be missed in terms of production if cut. Grade: 3
Tourek Williams: Tourek hasn’t done anything either since his rookie season. He was injured the entire year this season and even ended up finishing the year on IR. Grade: 1
Brad Sorenson: Has never been listed as more than the third-string quarterback, he spent 2014 on another team and 2015 between free agency and practice squad. Grade: 0
2014: #25 CB Jason Verrett, #50 Jerry Attaochu (traded up), #89 OL Chris Watt, #165 DT Ryan Carrethers, #201 RB Marion Grice, #240 WR Tevin Reese
Jason Verrett: Verrett is quickly becoming a lockdown cornerback, if only he can stay healthy. He had 3 picks this season, one for 6, and was ranked the fifth best CB this season according to pro football focus. Grade: 8
Jerry Attaochu: Again, trading up in the draft for players who aren’t playmakers hurt your team no matter what you gave up. Attaochu is one of those guys. Chargers moved up to get him and he has been getting better, but isn’t a playmaker who can bring it from week to week yet. Grade: 5
Chris Watt: Watt was a reach when drafted and a guy the coaches are hoping to be the heir to Hardwick at the center position. It hasn’t worked and he hasn’t stayed healthy. In fact, he has been graded as one of the worst offensive linemen in football. Grade: 3
Ryan Carrethers: Carrethers shows promise but for some reason, the coaches don’t play him. Whether it’s work ethic or attitude, we don’t know. But for him being a second year, 5th round pick, it’s not really uncommon. Grade: 5
Marion Grice: Got beat out by undrafted free agent Brandon Oliver and then swooped up by Arizona. Grade: 0
Tevin Reese: Never had a chance at the NFL level because he was way too small. His speed was for real but his size and catching were not. Never made the roster. Grade: 0
2015: #15 RB Melvin Gordon (Traded up), #48 MLB Denzel Perryman, #83 CB Craig Mager, #153 OLB Kyle Emanuel, #192 DE Darius Philon
Melvin Gordon: For trading up in the draft, see Manti Te’o and Jerry Attaochu. Yes, ANOTHER trade up and this time for a running back. Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin was most everyone’s pick that were Charger fans. But he has shown tremendous flaws in his game and hasn’t been anywhere close to the guy the Chargers had hoped for. The line was a problem as well, no doubt about it. Grade: 2
Denzel Perryman: Perryman looks promising and has quickly become a fan favorite. By the end of the year, he took the starting job from Butler (and deservedly so) and shined. He is by far the best linebacker we have on this team and he only started in about 5 games. Grade: 7
Craig Mager: Mager couldn’t find the field in 2015. He was a very big reach in the third round to begin with, but I understand why he did it. He has a lot to work on to become valuable and it’s going to take a few years to see that most likely. Grade: 3
Kyle Emanuel: Emanuel started strong. First game of the year vs the Lions he had a sack and an interception and then eventually was nowhere to be seen. He has tackling issues and doesn’t seem to set the edge like an OLB needs to do. He does come from a small school and was a 5th round pick so it is warranted and excusable. Grade: 4
Darius Philon: A guy I really liked coming out of Arkansas, Philon has shown some promise but overall looks to be a very good rotational player. He was put on the IR-designated to return list during the season but was playing well before that. Grade: 3
Final result: 64/170 = 37%, F
His free agent signings (major ones only)
***Note: these are how the players have played since joining the Chargers
2013: RB Danny Woodhead, OT King Dunlap, CB Derek Cox, OG Chad Rinehart, TE John Phillips
Danny Woodhead: Probably Telesco’s best signing and a big reason why we made the playoffs in 2013. Woodhead brings that “security blanket” the team had been missing since Sproles signed with New Orleans. He was versatile up until the Bills game last season where he ended it with a broken fibula. Other than that, he’s been a rock. Grade: 9
King Dunlap: Another strong signing by Telesco. Dunlap wasn’t much in Philly but Chargers brought him in on a very team friendly deal and he excelled and actually earned a pay raise this last offseason. Another solid signing by Telesco that year. Grade: 8
Derek Cox: The biggest miss by Telesco in 2013. He was toast everytime he touched the field and eventually was benched and ended his time with the Chargers. Cut after his first season. Grade: 2
Chad Rinehart: He was average at the guard position in 2013 and awful there in 2014. He was a fill in for the future and expecting anything other than below average was a pipe dream. Grade: 4
John Phillips: Nothing flashy but he was the blocking Tight End that the team needed. Being mostly used as that, he has caught a few passes and even a touchdown. He was eventually cut by the team this season and brought back as well. Grade: 4
2014: RB Donald Brown, CB Brandon Flowers, MLB Kavell Connor, TE David Johnson. Quick note: Kellen Clemens was also signed, but as a backup QB it is unfair to grade so I left him off for those purposes
Donald Brown: Terrible signing by Telesco as he was brought in for RB depth and got $5 million a year. He went inactive for most of this season as well. Grade: 3
Brandon Flowers: As bad as the Brown signing was, is how good of a signing the Flowers one was. He really boosted this secondary and his lockdown play earned him his new contract in this past offseason, something I will get to in a bit. Grade: 8
Kavell Connor: Brought in for LB depth, Kavell had a big workload in 2014 as he filled in for oft injured Manti Te’o and played fairly well when called upon. Grade: 6
David Johnson: Brought in to be the FB, David Johnson is brutal. He constantly looks lost and doesn’t know where he’s going and doesn’t seem to find the field that often now as well. Grade: 3
2015: WR Jacoby Jones, OG Orlando Franklin, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Patrick Robinson, DB Jimmy Wilson
Jacoby Jones: He was brought in to give us a feared return game. He never lived up to that and in fact, wasn’t even half of what we expected. Cut halfway through the season. Grade: 0
Orlando Franklin: Big money linemen signing, Franklin has been a HUGE disappointment as he isn’t even close to the guy who Telesco thought he was signing. System fit, as they ran a zone scheme could be a huge factor of why, but overall he was as bad as Rinehart. Grade: 3
Stevie Johnson: Started out strong, pulling in touchdowns in each of his first two games played for San Diego, but then seemed to check out and then eventually got hurt. Grade: 6
Patrick Robinson: The sneakiest of signings, PRob may have been the best signing of Telesco’s tenure. He graded as a very solid corner this season by Pro Football Focus and was a bright spot in a secondary that had high expectations going into the season. Grade: 7
Jimmy Wilson: Jimmy Wilson was brought in to be a Marcus Gilchrist type safety. One that could play safety and cornerback but actually do it well. Well, he couldn’t and eventually got cut at the end of the season. Grade: 2
Final Result: 65/140 = 46%, F
His contract extensions/re-signings (major one’s only)
2013: K Nick Novak, RB Ronnie Brown
Nick Novak: There wasn’t many re-signings his first year, which wasn’t bad. But Novak was solid here as he was very reliable. Grade: 8
Ronnie Brown: Ronnie Brown was brought in as a veteran backup and one who was very reliable with the rock. He had one big touchdown vs the Benagls that sealed the deal in our first playoff win since 2008. So for that, he gets a little extra love from me in his grade. Grade: 7
2014: MLB Donald Butler, S Darrell Stuckey, OG Chad Rinehart, CB Richard Marshall
Donald Butler: This couldn’t have gone any worse than it has. 2014 he was rated as one of the worst MLB’s in football and in 2015, rookie Denzel Perryman took his starting job and his time as a Charger may be over. Grade: 0
Darrell Stuckey: Solid as a special teamer, Stuckey was another sneaky good extension. He has made the pro bowl a few times as a special teamer but as a safety, he has been very limited in playing time. Grade: 6
Chad Rinehart: From an average 2013, to an awful 2014, Rinehart was below average for us. I understand the signing, but should have had a plan B. Grade: 3
Richard Marshall: Marshall had a knack at getting turnovers at the end of 2013, but most of that was due to him being in the right place at the right time. He was brought in for depth because he knew the system in 2014 but due to injuries, he played more than he should have. Grade: 3
2015: OT King Dunlap, CB Brandon Flowers
King Dunlap: Dunlap was a rock for us since 2013, but after his extension, he was very concussion prone again. Missed a chunk of the season and hasn’t lived up to his extension quite yet. Grade: 4
Brandon Flowers: Another player hit by injuries and possibly even coaching, Flowers under performed big time and was even rated as a bottom third corner this season. He really needs to have a bounceback season for his contract to not look so bad. Grade: 2
Final Result: 33/80 = 41%, F
Final overall result: 162/390 = 41%, F
Using my grading scale, Tom Telesco has gotten an ‘F’ grade as a general manager hitting on only 4 of every 10 personnel decisions. This doesn’t even include an undersized defense he has put together and coaches that are not good at what they do.
We all have differences of opinion on the different players aforementioned, but we can all agree that most his decisions have been sub-par.
Agree or disagree with my assessment? Did Telesco deserve this extension? I don’t think so, as my grading scale has proved. Let me know below!
The problems the Chargers have on offense reach well beyond a banged-up offensive line. Granted, Philip Rivers deserves to be anointed for sainthood having to play behind such a hot mess.
Let’s be real, kids. The offense is a complete mess and here’s why:
• Tom Telesco drafts kids who do not fit in this offensive “scheme”.
• Mike McCoy and Frank Reich refuse to change their “scheme” to fit the personnel Tom Telesco has given them.
• Frank Reich is clueless and predictable at the same time.
The first and second points go hand in hand. I give you Melvin Gordon as case in point. Melvin is a 21 or 22 personnel grouping back. This means two running backs, a tight end and two wide receivers (21 personnel) or two RBS, two TEs and a WR (22 personnel). He is not, nor ever has been, a spread formation back. He ran primarily out of 21, 22 or 12 personnel groupings (single setback two TEs on the line, not in pass formation). Sure, Melvin ran effectively out of other personnel groupings, but his strength is as an I-formation back.
When you move up in the draft to get the player you covet, you don’t make him fit your scheme. You adjust your scheme to his skill set. The Chargers don’t even possess a legitimate fullback on the roster. The closest thing to a fullback they have is tight end David Johnson. The last real fullback this team had was Lorenzo Neal. Once AJ Smith and Norv Turner kicked him to the curb, the fullback position has been an afterthought and the running game began its decline.
Gordon’s lack of production isn’t his fault alone. He doesn’t fit the scheme, rather the scheme doesn’t fit him. Blocking has been horrific, that’s on personnel and coaching. Injuries to D.J. Fluker, Orlando Franklin, King Dunlap and others hasn’t helped. Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has to do a better job coaching up this line. Chris Watt gets destroyed on a regular basis at center. Move him to guard and he gets pushed back into Rivers’ face.
Make no mistake, the 2015 Chargers’ offensive front will never be mistaken for Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman, Nick Hardwick, Mike Goff and Shane Olivea. They just aren’t that good overall. I like the Orlando Franklin acquisition, but he’s hurt. Dunlap is solid and his return will help Rivers sleep a little easier. Moving Fluker inside was a positive and, by far, an upgrade over Johnnie Troutman. Barksdale at right tackle is an upgrade over Fluker playing the position. I said it before, but it bears repeating: Watt is horrible. Telesco and McCoy have failed miserably to assemble a line that is worth its salt.
Apparently, Dean Spanos needs to hire Bill Polian so that Telesco can be good again. He’s looking like the classic example of the master making the apprentice look better and smarter than he really is.
Nobody will ever mistake Frank Reich for Ken Wisenhunt — or even Cam Cameron. His idea of attempting to run the ball is give it to Melvin from the shotgun, up the gut behind the aforementioned Watt and the one-legged Fluker. In D.J.’s defense, on one leg he’s still better than Troutman. That run nets two yards, so it’s back to pass, pass, pass behind an O-line that can’t protect a ham sandwich, let alone an immobile Rivers.
I realize this is a pass-first league. To that, I say “so what?”
Newsflash, Frankie-boy, this line is not your Buffalo K-Gun line. This line couldn’t pass protect against a pee wee football team! You and Mike McNorv talk about balance, so do it! Don’t continue to be an idiot. All that will do is get you charged with murder when Philip finally can’t get up after being hit while trying to throw the ball.
The 2015 offseason was anything but enjoyable for Chargers fans. We here at BoltBlitz.com had covered all of the new stadium/relocation to Los Angeles talk, possible pre-draft trade of Philip Rivers, the unwillingness of the organization to work out a contract extension with Eric Weddle and the suspension of Antonio Gates.
It was all quite exhausting.
One of the things that bothered me the most, in addition to the aforementioned issues, was the fact that there are a large number of Chargers on the 2015 squad that are not under contract for next season, including Weddle, Gates, Floyd and Green.
After doing a little research, my fears were heightened when seeing the plethora of quality names who do not have deals for 2016.
Here are the explanations of each free-agent designation and other information you’ll need to understand about free agency.
Accrued season = Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.
Franchise player (exclusive or nonexclusive) = The salary offer by a player’s club determines what type of franchise player he is: exclusive or non-exclusive.
An “exclusive” Franchise Player — not free to sign with another club — is offered the greater of (i) the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year as of the end of the Restricted Free Agent Signing Period on April 19; or (ii) the amount of the Required Tender for a non-exclusive franchise player, as explained below.
Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the CBA sets forth the methodology, known as the “Cap Percentage Average,” for calculating the Required Tender for such a player:
The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which average shall be calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years…; and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year…(the “Cap Percentage Average”)…; or (B) 120 percent of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater.
If a club extends a Required Tender to a “non-exclusive” Franchise Player pursuant to this section, the player shall be permitted to negotiate a player contract with any club, except that draft choice compensation of two first-round draft selections shall be made in the event he signs with a new club.
Transition player = A transition player has received a minimum offer of the average of the top 10 salaries of last season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater.
A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.
* Unrestricted free agent = A player with four or more Accrued Seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any club, with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.
** Restricted free agent = He can negotiate with any club. If the Restricted Free Agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because the qualifying offer entitles it to a “right of first refusal” on any offer sheet the player signs. If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player’s negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club. In addition, a player who would otherwise be a Restricted Free Agent may be designated by his old club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player.
*** Exclusive rights free agent = Such a player has no more than two accrued seasons in the NFL and may only sign with his prior team, provided, of course, that the team extends a minimum qualifying offer to the player.
Here is a look at all of the Bolts that are in the final year of their contracts with the team, according to spotrac.com.
*UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
- FS – Eric Weddle
- TE – Antonio Gates
- WR – Malcom Floyd
- RT – Joe Barksdale
- CB – Patrick Robinson
- QB – Kellen Clemens
- G – Johnnie Troutman
- DE – Kendall Reyes
- DL – Ricardo Mathews
- FB/TE – David Johnson
- TE – Ladarius Green
- OL – Chris Hairston
- TE – John Phillips
- C – J.D. Walton
**RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
- SS – Jahleel Addae
- OL – Kenny Wiggins
*** EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS:
- WR – Dontrelle Inman
- OLB – Cordarro Law
- OL – Tyreek Burwell
When looking at the offensive side of the ball, the entire tight end group is not under contract for 2016. Although it would make sense to bring back Green, his concussion problems may prevent the team from doing so. Phillips is primarily a blocking tight end, but he made a few plays during the four-week absence of Gates. Speaking of Gates, it is hard to say whether or not the Chargers will be able to find a team-friendly deal should he decide to continue his NFL career.
At the wideout spot, Floyd has already stated that he will not be back next season, announcing that this year will be his last. Inman looks to be a prime candidate for being re-signed by the club. He is gaining the trust of Philip Rivers in the passing game. His blocking as a wide receiver in the running game is improving with each snap he receives.
Offensive linemen Joe Barksdale and Chris Hairston have started multiple games in 2015, with Barksdale slotted as the team’s starting right tackle. He will most likely be brought back depending on the direction Tom Telesco decides to go in the early rounds of the 2016 draft. Hairston provides sold depth and versatility, making him a possibility for a return to the Chargers. Guys like Kenny Wiggins and Tyreek Burwell could be re-signed to fairly low-salary numbers. Burwell would still have another year of eligibility on the practice squad. Recently signed J.D. Walton will have to impress when called upon to receive consideration for an eventual re-signing.
The defensive side of the ball is obviously highlighted by the last year under contract for Eric Weddle. The team has made it clear that there will be no contract talks prior to the beginning of the 2016 league year. It doesn’t necessarily seem as though the team is willing to pony up and re-sign him to the money he believes he is worth. There is always the option of the organization applying the franchise tag to Weddle, paying him a top-five salary at his position on a one-year deal. Quite frankly, I don’t see that happening.
Fellow defensive back Patrick Robinson has looked to be a solid acquisition this offseason. Due to injuries, he has been asked to start on the outside although his position as the nickel corner is ideal for his skill-set. If he can continue to make an impact, he should be worth a look to remain with the team beyond 2015. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was offered a deal during the middle of this season.
Former second-round draft pick Kendall Reyes has been a bit of a disappoint save his rookie campaign. Depending on the desired contract of the defensive end, he may be hard-pressed to stay with the club past this year. He has not provided a viable solution opposite of Corey Liuget on the defensive line. Liuget needs help upfront, and Reyes does not seem like the guy for the job.
Ricardo Mathews is one of the most versatile defensive lineman on the team. He can line up at multiple spots and his high motor is impressive for a man his size. He comes back for at least one more season, in my opinion.
The situation surrounding strong safety Jahleel Addae is very interesting. Because of a nasty looking injury where his leg appeared to fold in half, he has missed the majority of the snaps through four weeks, allowing Jimmy Wilson to start in his place. If Addae were to come back and make an impact, would the team be willing to make him a long-term offer? It is difficult to say at this point. Similar to Barksdale, a lot of his future with the Bolts could depend on what Telesco plans to do in the draft.
I am not sure if you are as frightened by the number of free agents for 2016 as I am. But it looks like the 2016 Chargers have the chance of looking quite a bit different than this year’s squad.
Thank you very much for reading.
The San Diego Chargers are one game away from having their future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame tight end back on the playing field.
Antonio Gates is forced to sit out the Week 4 contest against the Cleveland Browns due to his violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
Gates has been missed. There is no doubt about that.
Upon his return, Gates will immediately assume his place as the team’s starter at tight end.
Being without Ladarius Green in Week 3, the offense struggled to get going when pressured by the Vikings’ defenders. Having Gates back in the lineup can help provide Rivers with a much-need safety valve.
Although Green filled in admirably during the first two weeks, the return of Gates will allow Rivers and the Chargers’ offense much more flexibility in the passing game.
Though not revered for his run-blocking skills, the 35-year-old does a sufficient job when it comes to helping out the offensive line in the running game.
Where he obviously makes an impact is as a pass-catching threat. His presence will hopefully help Rivers cut down on his alarming number of turnovers thus far through the 2015 season (six through three weeks; four interceptions and two fumbles).
Gates is an integral part of the Chargers’ offense. Not having him for the first four weeks is extremely hurtful to the offense’s ability to move the ball, especially when it comes to converting third downs into first downs.
Entering his 13th year in the NFL with the Bolts, the numbers that he has put up rank in him as one of the best tight ends in the history of the league.
An undrafted free agent in 2003, Gates has registered 788 for 10,014 yards and 99 touchdown receptions. He is the team’s all-time leader in all three categories. Those numbers are good to have him at fourth in NFL history in receptions and yards as a tight end. His 99 touchdown catches ranks him as second in history as a tight end. With one more touchdown catch, Gates will be only the ninth player in NFL history with at least 100 receiving scores.
Not too shabby.
It goes without saying that Gates will be welcomed back to the lineup with open arms. His innate ability to create separation, despite a decreasing speed over the last few years, provides Rivers with the optimal target when the team needs to achieve those necessary, difficult yards in clutch situations.
Gates will be watching the Chargers’ offense do its thing this upcoming Sunday against the Browns without him for the last time. I feel as though I can speak on behalf of all Chargers’ fans when I say that we are all excited to see that No. 85 jersey back on the field, making plays as he continues to climb up the rankings as one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL.
Not too bad for a former college basketball player.
Gates is in his contract year with the Chargers. It is difficult to determine whether or not the 2015 season will be his last with the team.
For what it’s worth, it has been a great ride, Gatesy. The city of San Diego and its fans are more than appreciative of all of your hard work on the field, and your exemplary status off the field during your time in America’s finest city. Here’s hoping you go out on top.
Thanks a lot for reading.
The Chargers made a couple of moves on Thursday by signing tight end Kyle Miller and releasing defensive lineman Mitch Unrein, according to the team’s official website.
Miller was recently waived by the team after originally making the 53-man roster. The former Falcon led the Bolts with 11 receptions for 66 yards during the 2015 preseason. Miller saw most of his game action on special teams for the team.
The team was almost forced to sign Miller after current starting tight end Ladarius Green suffered his third concussion in the last nine months.
The Bolts will enter Week 3 with John Phillips, David Johnson and Miller at the tight end position.
The tight end position was already hurting due to the four-game suspension of future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Needless to say, he is sorely missed. He i available to return to the field for the Week 5 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Unrein was signed this offseason during free agency. The former Denver Bronco was seen as depth along the defensive front.
The Chargers announced on Thursday that they have re-signed tight end John Phillips. The 28-year-old was one of the final players released prior to the announcement of the team’s 53-man roster.
In order to make room for Phillips, the team waived undrafted free agent Tyreek Burwell. The former Cincinnati Bearcat offensive lineman was a surprise signing to the 53-man roster.
Entering his seventh season in the NFL, Phillips began his career with the Dallas Cowboys, playing in 48 total games. Joining the Chargers in 2013 through free agency, the team uses him to do a lot of dirty work on offense and special teams. Although the boxscores have yet to show it, Phillips has done a good amount to help the team win ball games.
For his career, the veteran has recorded 35 receptions for 249 yards with three touchdowns.
The signing of Phillips could prove that the status of Ladarius Green is not what the Bolts had hoped for. Green was evaluated for a concussion at Wednesday’s practice.
With the home opener on Sunday and the possibility of Green missing the game, the Chargers tight end group would look like this: John Phillips, Kyle Miller and David Johnson.
San Diego Chargers All-Pro, future Hall-Of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates made headlines this summer when he said he wanted a lighter workload this season. After years of dealing with debilitating plantar fasciitis, Gates looked like his old self as he caught 12 touchdowns, one short of his career high of 13 touchdowns in his breakout 2004 season.
The next touchdown Gates catches will be the 100th of his career, the rarest of air for a tight end. To date, only one tight end has caught more than 100 touchdown passes in NFL history, Kansas City great Tony Gonzalez with 111. Gates will do it in three fewer seasons than Gonzalez.
This will be a season to watch number 85 for a number of reasons. Barring injury, he is most assuredly going to catch number 100. It will be worth keeping an eye on Gates all season to see if Philip Rivers can get him 13 touchdowns this season, placing him at No. 1 all-time for touchdown catches by a tight end.
Fittingly, like Rivers, Gates is also in the last year of his contract.
Can all this talk of wanting a lighter workload be indicative of wanting to complete an unspoken farewell tour in one piece? No one is more deserving of a victory lap than man that revolutionized the tight end position by using his basketball background as a standout frontcourt player at Kent State to become the greatest undrafted free agent in Chargers history.
While it is possible Gates could continue his career beyond this season, the writing is on the wall. It is time for the heir apparent to Gates’ throne to step up and claim it. Who will do it? Let’s look at the candidates.
Ladarius Green: Now entering his fourth season on the roster, the 6’6″, 240 lb. Green was expected to have a breakout year last season. Instead, Gates found the fountain of youth and played most of the snaps last season. Green has shown flashes of potential on offense. The highlight of his season was a 60-yard touchdown grab against Kansas City, where he showed great agility and surprising breakaway speed for a man his size. He’s had three seasons to learn from the master, now it’s time for him to put up or shut up.
John Phillips: The 6’5″, 250 pounder is a seven-year veteran. Used for protection, Phillips proved to be an asset due to his skill as a blocker. During the 15 games he played for the Chargers last season, he lined up at fullback in addition to his tight end duties. He caught one pass for one yard last year, but it went for a touchdown. A knee injury landed him on IR for the last game of the season, but he looks to be ready to go when the new season begins.
David Johnson: Like Phillips, Johnson (6’2″, 260) is entering his seventh season. Signed away from the Pittsburgh Steelers last offseason, Johnson was primarily used as the de facto fullback. He was a good physical point of attack blocker and utilized on special teams. He had one reception for four yards. Expect more of the same this season unless an unknown makes a stronger case for his spot.
Kyle Miller: Two weeks ago the Chargers claimed Miller off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons. The 6’5″, 260 pound product out of Mount Union is a second-year pro. He played one game with Indianapolis in 2012 and was cut from the Miami Dolphins in 2013. Last season he was on the Falcons practice squad. Miller is the son of former NFL quarterback Mark Miller. At 27, he is still looking for his first official NFL reception. In college, he was a three-time Ohio Athletic Conference first team selection as a tight end. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do in training camp.
Dave Paulson: The (6’4″, 240) former Oregon Duck spent the first two years of his NFL career (2012, 13) in Pittsburgh. The Chargers signed him to their practice squad shortly after the beginning of last season. Coming from Oregon, Paulson was recognized as a dependable pass catcher and leader. His ability to block will most likely determine whether he will make the team.
UDFA rookies Eric Frohnapfel and Brain Parker: Frohnapfel is an intriguing prospect from a size standpoint. He stands 6’7″ and weights 235 pounds. As a member of the Marshall Thundering Herd he accounted for 37 catches for 420 yards and five touchdowns. If his blocking and route running are on par, he could be an unstoppable red zone target after the staff gets time to coach him up.
The 6’4″, 260 lb. Parker logged similar numbers in college at Albany, where he collected 39 balls for 500 yards and five touchdowns. The two are camp bodies but the scouts have seen enough impressive tape on them to extend invites and give them the chance to make the team. The Chargers obviously won’t carry seven tight ends on the roster, but three on the active roster and one on the practice squad is very likely.
At this point Green, other than Gates, is the only person I would pen onto the opening day roster. Everyone else is expendable. All of these players will have the advantage of being able to watch how a future first ballot Hall-Of-Fame player at their position prepares and trains. They will also have the benefit of having a legend of the game as their position coach in Buffalo Bills’ great Pete Metzelaars. Metzelaars won a Super Bowl ring as an offensive quality control coach for the Indianapolis Colts. It’s up to them to learn and adapt as much of their expertise to their game as they can.
We all look forward to seeing this camp battle play out. Who do you think will secure the role of Rivers’ next security blanket?
The Greg One
The Chargers have suffered a plethora of injuries in the early stages of 2014. Some impact players such as Nick Hardwick and Danny Woodhead are out for the entire season. Others like Ryan Mathews and Melvin Ingram have already missed time and will for a bit longer; Melvin is currently on the reserve-injured with a designation to return. The hope is that Mathews will be back before, or right around, the bye week.
When looking at the names listed above, each and every one of them are impact players.
This week’s injury report is not short of big names either. Here’s a look at the list of injured Bolts heading into this Sunday’s game at Oakland.
RB Donald Brown – Concussion
RB Ryan Mathews – Knee
ILB Manti Te’o – Foot
CB Shareece Wright – Knee
WR Malcom Floyd – Calf
RT DJ Fluker – Ankle
OLB Jarret Johnson – Back/Ankle
OLB Cordarro Law – Ankle
C Rich Ohrnberger – Back
S Darrell Stuckey – Quad
LB Reggie Walker – Ankle
WR Keenan Allen – Quad
OLB Jerry Attaochu – Hamstring
ILB Donald Butler – Shoulder
OLB Dwight Freeney – Ankle
TE David Johnson – Knee/Shoulder
From what the San Diego media is reporting, most of the players listed as questionable – with the exception of Fluker – are likely to play this week; although Fluker has a shot at playing via Michael Gehlken on UT San Diego. Attaochu is set to play for the first time in the last two games. He was only in on one play three weeks ago after tweaking his hamstring.
The return of Ohrnberger is huge for the offensive line and Philip Rivers. Additionally on offense, Floyd has been a sure-handed target for Rivers and it would be a shame for him to miss the Raider game. Seyi Ajirotutu saw time in his place last week against the Jets.