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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>

    General manager A. J. Smith doesn't show his cards often. That's why, heading into the off-season when asked about his situation at quarterback, Smith's standard reply was: "We don't discuss our football business."
    So Drew Brees did it for him.

    Brees, who had surgery on Jan. 5 to repair a dislocated right (throwing) shoulder and torn labrum, said the Chargers have approached him regarding a long-term deal.

    "They've told me that they want to pursue me long term," Brees said. "I know that's something for the next few months that everybody is going to be working on.

    "As far as what's gone on to this point, it's really not much. I think we're in the very beginning stages here. I know they want me there long term and I want to be there long term."

    Smith confirmed Brees' statement.

    "I just think he is an outstanding quarterback and we want him to be a part of the San Diego Chargers," Smith said. "We're trying to win a championship and hope he will be part of that. A gesture has been made."

    Smith said Ed McGuire, the Chargers' lead negotiator, will contact Tom Condon, Brees' agent.

    The talkative Brees let two of Smith's off-season intentions slip out - regarding him and Philip Rivers.

    "Philip will be a San Diego Charger," Smith said. "He will not be traded."

    Rivers' patience is wearing thin. The 2004 draft's fourth overall pick has zero starts and is eager to get his career rolling.

    While hedging against demanding a trade, Rivers' goal is to start.

    "Obviously my hope and desire is to be starting somewhere (next) year and that is the way I'm approaching the off-season," said Rivers, who was 12-of-22 for 115 yards with an interception when relieving Brees in the finale.

    Brees had to prove to the Chargers in '05 that he wasn't just a one-shot wonder after making the Pro Bowl in '04. While Brees wanted a multiyear deal heading into the recent season, the reluctant Charger delivered a one-year, $8 million franchise tag contract.

    Brees' encore was solid, as he completed 322-of-500 passes for 3,576 yards (64 percent) 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for an 89.2 rating, 10th-best in the NFL.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    -The Chargers landed two players on the All-Pro team, with TE Antonio Gates being the lone member of the team to collect all 50 votes from the media covering the NFL. Gates was joined on the team by NT Jamal Williams. It's the first time Williams has been honored; he is also headed to his first Pro Bowl next month. Gates led the team with 89 receptions and 1,101 receiving yards. "You always want to feel good and be recognized for your accomplishments," said Gates, after his second straight All-Pro selection. "But I'm more grateful to my coaches and teammates for believing in me. We have a special group of guys on offense. My teammates deserve the credit for giving me the opportunity to make plays."

    -LB Shawne Merriman, the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, is among the five finalists for the Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award. Merriman led the Chargers with 10 sacks.

    -The Chargers are calling an audible on plans to replace Qualcomm Stadium. The team wanted to present a ballot initiative to voters in November about constructing a new venue. But that isn't possible, the Chargers said, because of the dire financial straits of the city. On Jan. 1, the team can talk to cities outside of San Diego - that includes other San Diego County cities, but also any city, anywhere. Under the terms of the current lease, the Chargers can't vacate until after the 2008 season, and if doing so, they would have to retire $60 million in outstanding bonds issued for 1997 expansion of the stadium.

    -The Chargers expect word soon from ILB Randall Godfrey about his plans for next season. Godfrey was set to retire, but after turning in another solid year he is having second thoughts. "It's entirely up to him," Smith said.

    Smith said he'll determine which free agents the Chargers will disregard or invite back by mid-February.

    -The Chargers played the toughest schedule in the league last year, with their opponents owning a 143-113 record.

    -The 19th pick of the draft is the Chargers, the worst selection of the four teams finishing 9-7. Miami, Minnesota and Dallas will pick ahead of the Bolts because of their strong schedule.

    -In 2006, the Chargers play but five teams with winning records in 2005: Denver (13-3), Seattle (13-3), Cincinnati (11-5), Pittsburgh (11-5) and Kansas City (10-6).

    The Chargers have won 21 games in their past two seasons. That's three more victories than they collected in the three seasons before 2004.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know where all the rumors come from, but he's our coach, and he isn't going anywhere." - Team president Dean Spanos, on reports coach Marty Schottenheimer and general manager A.J. Smith are at odds, which could lead to Schottenheimer's dismissal.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    The Chargers head into the off-season intent on improving their play along the offensive line and in the secondary.

    The running game lost steam, especially in the final month. Too much inconsistency and too many times that Tomlinson was met in the backfield by defenders. Tomlinson is great, but even he needs some room to roam.

    The secondary didn't improve, despite the Chargers nearly doubling their sack total from the previous year - they had 46 sacks. Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence combined for two interceptions - and they didn't come until December.

    COACHING CAROUSEL: Schottenheimer has won 21 games in the last two years and has some $6 million guaranteed for the next two. People get worked up over Schottenheimer's conservatism and postseason shortcomings, but it's rare a coach that is winning and has big bucks coming his way his shown the door. And that certainly won't be the case here.

    Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron met with the Houston Texans regarding their head-coaching opening, his first interview for such a post. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is 10 games over .500 as an NFL head coach, was interviewed by the Green Bay Packers.

    If Cameron goes and fired Rams coach Mike Martz isn't hired elsewhere, Martz could considered coming to San Diego, where he attended school and was a junior college coach. Though it remains to be seen if Martz would be interested in working with Schottenheimer, and vice versa.

    Another possibility is Norv Turner, the fired Raiders coach and former Chargers offensive coordinator.

    All the assistants are under contract and are expected to return - although Schottenheimer left himself some wiggle room when asked just that.

    FREE-AGENT UPDATE

    Unrestricted free agents:

    -QB Drew Brees (will be retained, likely with the franchise tag, although there could be a long-term deal).

    -WR Reche Caldwell (isn't expected to be brought back).

    -TE Justin Peelle (team likes his blocking, but at the right price).

    -G Bob Hallen (was able to supply needed depth; could return depending on the draft).

    -DE DeQuincy Scott (solid backup and clubhouse guy; should return).

    -LB Ben Leber (he wants to start, and with Shawne Merriman in place, he won't do it in San Diego).

    -LB Carlos Polk (good special teams player but repeated injuries are a concern).

    -CB Jamar Fletcher (was decent as a nickel back; team looking to upgrade secondary but Fletcher could be a fall-back guy and return).

    Restricted free agents:

    -G Kris Dielman (will return).

    -T Courtney VanBuren (injuries hurt his stock, and team will likely look elsewhere).

    -WR Kassim Osgood (team wants him back for his special teams play).

    -FB Andrew Pinnock (with Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal on roster, he's not a high priority)

    -DE Jacques Cesaire (team wants to retain him).

    -LB Matt Wilhelm (had a solid season as a backup and team is fond of him).

    -LB Stephen Cooper (will return; thought of as a possible starter, but if Randall Godfrey delays his retirement, Cooper again could be a key backup).

    -S Clinton Hart (at the right price, he returns).

    FEELING A DRAFT: Among the reasons the Chargers have flipped their persona from losers to playoff contenders is the work of general manager A.J. Smith in the draft. The team has the 19th pick this year, and Smith will likely look to upgrade the offensive line and the wide receiving corps, especially a speed receiver who can stretch the field.

    MEDICAL WATCH: QB Drew Brees has undergone surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder. He is expected to be ready for the June mini-camp.

    DE Luis Castillo will have arthroscopic knee surgery and isn't expected to miss any of the off-season workouts.

    LB Donnie Edwards will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery.

    WR Kassim Osgood (shoulder) is expected to be fit for the mini-camps. LB Carlos Polk (shoulder) will be OK in time for training camp.

    LT Roman Oben (foot) is hopeful of being OK for training camp.

    SS Terrence Kiel (ankle) had surgery and is pointing to the June mini-camp.

    TE Ryan Krause (foot) is expected to be ready for the mini-camp.

    LB Ben Leber (foot) is expected to be ready for mini-camp.
     

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