Among the throngs of Chargers fans, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has anything negative to say about Tom Telesco. The General Manager, now heading into his second year as the team’s front office leader, has done an amazing job with very little cap space.
Telesco hit a grand slam in his first draft last season, netting offensive tackle DJ Fluker, linebacker Mantei Te’o and wide receiver Keenan Allen got the Chargers an A grade. More importantly, on the field Fluker and Allen proved themselves as starters and Te’o played well despite playing the entire season with a broken foot. I will still say Allen was robbed of the NFL Rookie Of The Year award.
Telesco’s approach of overhauling the roster, dumping overpriced and underperforming veterans in favor of younger, hungrier albeit less experienced players worked. His approach worked with the his previous team, the Indianapolis Colts. In conjunction with the drafting of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts went from worst to first in the AFC South. Telesco did the same thing in San Diego and last season the Chargers saw their four-year playoff drought end.
By forcing draft picks and unproven talent to step up and prove themselves on the field, Telesco has created something they haven’t had since they were the team that ruled the AFC West from 2000 to 2007, depth. The Chargers will be a force to be reckoned with on defense with the full strength returns of defensive end Dwight Freeney, last year’s fifth round draft pick in cornerback Steve Williams, outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, a finally healthy and full speed Manti Te’o and wide receiver Malcom Floyd. Add newly signed corner Brandon Flowers to what had been a weak secondary and the team is set to make another splash in the NFL postseason.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Chargers 2014 draft class in that equation…
The first two seasons have been about fixing the holes on the offensive line and improving the quality of the defense which has ranked in the bottom of the league the past few years. Now the defense is as stacked as its ever been. Barring injuries, the Chargers should have a defense in the top ten of the league. The offensive line has depth and as we saw last season, with time to throw Philip Rivers is a top five quarterback in the league. That’s not hyperbole, Rivers finished fifth in the NFL last season with 4478 yards passing and 32 touchdowns.
With the matters of depth and stability on both lines in hand, time to look forward to what aspect Telesco will tackle next. The bad contracts from the previous administration finally come off the books this season and in the next offseason the team will find themselves with more cap space than they have had since the turn of the century. The Chargers will have over 30 million to spend in free agency. The reins will be off and Telesco will finally be released from shopping in the bargain basement and now he’ll have the ability to shop in Beverly Hills.
One position which will be in desperate need of new blood will be wide receiver. Floyd, 32, is on the last year of his deal and even if he stays he will be a depth play, not a starter. This will be Floyd’s 11th season. I expect Floyd to retire after this season. Vincent Brown is at the end of his injury-marred rookie contract. Brown had a disappointing 2013 given his opportunity to step up and fill Floyd’s shoes after Floyd went down with a severe neck injury. Another lackluster season will have Brown looking for work elsewhere. Eddie Royal and Seyi Ajirotutu will also be a free agents after this season. That’s four expiring contracts at the same position. That would leave Keenan Allen and a couple of roster fillers at a critical position. Telesco has proven himself adept at filling positions of need. Here’s a look at the top free agent wide receivers in 2015:
None of these players have signed extensions. Aside from Welker, these are legitimate deep threats that will allow the Chargers to stretch the field vertically. Add in some older talents who would not require top dollar like Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Jeremy Maclin, Sidney Rice, Kenny Britt, Josh Morgan and you have a great field of talent to choose from. Adding two players from these names would give the Chargers one of the top receiving corps in the league. It’s not unfathomable to see Thomas and Bryant both in lightning bolts. Telesco covets speed and those two have it in spades. However, that’s also two big contracts. More likely one of the two (Bryant or Thomas) coupled with Smith, Shorts, Welker or another vet on the list would be more like it. San Diego will have the resources to make that happen.
Adding two of those names along side Keenan Allen would give defensive coordinators nightmares, would extend Philip Rivers’ shelf life with an improved offensive line AND legitimate deep threats on both sides of the field (less rushing the passer) and amount to deep playoff runs. The Chargers are an up and coming franchise and with a great front office in place, money to spend and they’re already a playoff team.
Free agents will go to San Diego, as we have already seen. We all know wide receivers are divas. The key things are who’s throwing them the ball, is it a contending team and money. There’s not a receiver in the league who wouldn’t love to catch balls from Philip Rivers. The Bolts can afford to pay and they’re already pushing Denver for the top of the AFC West and making the playoffs. The team already averages 24 points per game without marquee wideouts (aside from Allen). Imagine what they will be able to do with them!
Who would you like to see the Chargers sign next season?
The Greg One