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April full of possibilities for Chargers GM Smith

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Apr 1, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    We have been able, as usual in Chargerland, to snooze through most of the first two months of the NFL offseason.

    The Chargers’ only acquisitions have involved claiming a running back off the scrap heap and bringing in two free-agent cornerbacks off the street.

    “We’re always looking, and nothing hit us,” General Manager A.J. Smith said this week when asked about not signing any unrestricted free agents yet again. “I know that’s a disappointment for a lot of people.”

    Today, however, begins what could be the most interesting April in these parts in quite some time.

    “There is more possibility,” Smith acknowledged with a shrug.

    That doesn’t mean he will make any more moves other than exercising the draft picks he has. But even if he does only that, the Chargers will get a new No. 1 running back for the first time in nine years. Smith was mum on most of his plans, but he could not deny the obvious.

    “We’re in the market for running backs,” Smith said. “Even I will not dance around the issue and have fun with the facts.”

    That’s not entirely accurate. Smith loves to be coy.

    He would not address the reality that he has fielded a number of phone calls from teams interested in working a trade. It is not known which teams are trying to peddle the Chargers a running back, and no team has offered a current starter.

    All Smith would allow was that the Chargers will fill their need(s) at running back “by any means” necessary. That could include a trade up through draft weekend for another team’s backup that Smith believes could be a complement to Darren Sproles.

    Smith is on record saying that, “We don’t need a Hall of Fame running back. You need a guy who can help you win championships.”

    That quote, uttered at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, was misconstrued by some as a slight of LaDainian Tomlinson. It was not that, but simply Smith’s contention that an elite back is not vital.

    As for Sproles, the Chargers would like to keep him, though talks on a long-term contract have yet to begin and there remains the possibility of a trade.

    It is unlikely that the other high-tender restricted free agents will be traded. In fact, it is almost unfathomable the Chargers would part with Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson or Marcus McNeill. But Shawne Merriman could be had for the right price — a price only Smith knows at this point.

    That the Chargers made a trade last month to move up 20 spots in the second round, giving them another pick just 12 spots after they exercise their choice at No. 28 in the first round, adds further intrigue to this month.

    So far, they have attended the Pro Days and brought to or made plans to bring to Chargers Park most of the top running backs and nose tackles in this draft.
    It makes sense, considering the departure of Tomlinson and nose tackle Jamal Williams, that those are the two positions the Chargers will address with their first two picks. Both positions are considered to be deep in talent in this draft, a particular rarity at nose tackle.

    While getting that 40th pick means it’s less likely that Smith would make a move up in the draft, he would not rule it out. He certainly has a history of draft machinations, having pulled some sort of trade in all but two of his seven drafts as GM.

    Smith does have more ammunition this year.

    In addition to swapping spots (from 60th to 40th) with the Seattle Seahawks in this year’s second round, the Chargers acquired a third-round pick in 2011 for backup QB Charlie Whitehurst. They also got another 2011 third-round pick (that will likely become a second-round pick) from the New York Jets in exchange for cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

    While Smith can’t trade the conditional pick from the Jets, he does have those extra 2011 picks to work with if he feels compelled to move up — perhaps for the right running back or nose tackle, or perhaps for an upgrade at safety.

    With blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna signing with Chicago and Whitehurst gone, two picks will likely be earmarked for those spots.

    There is also thought to be a wealth of tight ends in this draft but a shallow QB pool.

    It is also possible the Chargers will look to upgrade at defensive end and right tackle, though they seem content to go with Jacques Cesaire and others at end and another season with Jeromey Clary at right tackle.

    Even so, it appears we might see our most captivating April since Eli Manning refused to be a Charger, setting off a string of events that set up San Diego’s standout draft classes of 2004 and ’05.
  2. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    There is a difference between a “need” and a desire to upgrade. The following is not a ranking of what holes the Chargers have to fill the rest of the offseason; it simply breaks down needs vs. possible upgrades and how they might be addressed:

    Someone to share time with Darren Sproles

    Third TE behind Antonio Gates, Kris Wilson

    Safety with more speed than K. Ellison

    Antonio Garay could lead rotation at NT


    Running back: Duh. The Chargers will have a new No. 1 tailback for the first time since 2001. The player that replaces LaDainian Tomlinson will most likely arrive via one of the team’s first two draft picks — but there are teams trying to sell the Chargers on a trade. A.J. Smith is on record saying he doesn’t need a great back to be successful. A serviceable back to work with Darren Sproles would suffice.

    Tight end: The Chargers have Antonio Gates, and they’re excited about Kris Wilson’s blocking and special teams play. But losing Brandon Manumaleuna leaves a hole; this will almost certainly be a position targeted in the draft.

    QB: Certainly, the plan is to have Philip Rivers lead them to championships ad infinitum, but backup Billy Volek’s contract expires after 2010, and No. 3 Charlie Whitehurst is a richer man in Seattle. So the Chargers could identify a mid- to late-round pick for Norv Turner to mold.


    Nose tackle: The fact is, the Chargers liked their defensive line rotation last season — which did not include Jamal Williams for 15 games. They’re looking at nose tackles in the draft, but it would not be a surprise to see Antonio Garay as the starter with Ogemdi Nwagbuo and others rotating through.

    Strong safety: Kevin Ellison is a heady player and showed the ability to make plays, but he has his limitations, and the Chargers would take someone with better speed if available.

    Right tackle: It remains likely — despite the widespread angst of fans — that Jeromey Clary remains the starter. But the Chargers have the position on their radar and could draft a project or even some competition. Brandyn Dombrowski, despite his valiant work filling in for Clary at the end of last season, is seen as a guard.

    Defensive end: Jacques Cesaire is a cockroach, which is meant as a compliment. He can’t be eradicated Everyone believes the Chargers could have a “better” player at right end, but the former undrafted free agent has survived and thrived for seven seasons. He could remain the starter, or Vaughn Martin could continue to rise, or the club might find a player too good to pass up in the second or third round.

  3. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Jan 24, 2010
    This is the part that leaves me not to opomistic for the defense in 2011. The "rotation" is nothing more than the crap the Padres have tried in the past of having multiple C rated players "platoon" at a OF position, and hope to get B rated production.

    We need a legit starter at NT who is 325lbs+ and is capable of playing running and passing downs, and that player doesn't exist on the Chargers roster currently
  4. Moses

    Moses Can You Stand The Rain?

    Mar 11, 2009
    With regards to the Defensive End situation i wouldn't mind seeing a 3rd rounder go on Greg Hardy if he's still available.
  5. Dublin Bolt

    Dublin Bolt BoltTalker

    Aug 12, 2006
    Garay coming from the scrapheap in NYC to start, WOW!. If it comes to pass fair play to him.
  6. Enormo

    Enormo BoltTalker

    Jul 22, 2007
    Tight end: The Chargers have Antonio Gates, and they’re excited about Kris Wilson’s blocking and special teams play. But losing Brandon Manumaleuna leaves a hole; this will almost certainly be a position targeted in the draft.

    Yes, we need a giant TE with soft hands and even softer blocking skills.

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