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THE NFL: No vacancies in Chargers’ house

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Aug 29, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/football/nfl/kansas_city_chiefs/12471123.htm" target="_blank">Kansas City Star
    The San Diego Chargers don't need to put names on the back of their players' uniforms this season.

    In a league where free-agency and the salary cap dictate significant roster moves every year, the Chargers represent the anti-makeover.

    They are the only team in the NFL that returned all 22 starters - plus their punter and place-kicker - from a year ago, though Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates will miss the season opener because the club put him on an exempt list during his holdout for a new contract.

    "It's not like last year when I didn't know half the guys on the team," linebacker Donnie Edwards said at the start of training camp.

    A year ago, the Chargers were one of the youngest and least stable teams in the NFL. Coach Marty Schottenheimer was on the hot seat, the offensive line was completely rebuilt and the team's first-round draft choice, quarterback Philip Rivers, didn't sign until the last week of August.

    But the Chargers turned out to be the NFL's breakout team, going from 4-12 to 12-4. They won the AFC West, Schottenheimer was voted Coach of the Year, and quarterback Drew Brees took advantage of Rivers' late signing and earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.

    Schottenheimer and general manager A.J. Smith were so pleased with the makeup of the team, they signed just one unrestricted free agent - backup cornerback Bhawoh Jue - and gave new contracts to players such as linebacker Steve Foley, receiver Keenan McCardell and defensive tackle Jamal Williams.

    "Having all the starters coming back is tremendous," Brees said. "That shows the youth we had on our team. Everybody was basically locked into contracts because everybody was so young and still developing.

    "That's why I feel like we haven't even scratched the surface of what we can accomplish. You look at how young we are, and guys are getting better and more experienced. This is our opportunity to go after that championship. Nobody is satisfied with the way we finished last year."

    Yes, the Chargers are still stinging from that 20-17 overtime loss at home to the New York Jets in the opening round of the playoffs, but as Brees pointed out, 41 of the 53 players on that San Diego team had never participated in a postseason game.

    "We matured from that experience," Brees said, "and that will carry forward this year."

    The issue hovering over the Chargers' blissful state of continuity is whether they can keep both Brees and Rivers beyond this season. Rivers, expected to be the franchise quarterback of the future, received a $14.5 million signing bonus last year as part of a six-year contract worth up to $40 million.

    Brees was in the last year of his contract when he enjoyed his breakthrough season, finishing third in the NFL in passing and earning a Pro Bowl berth. The Chargers could have rewarded Brees with a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract. Or they could have let him test the free-agent market and gone with Rivers.

    Instead, the Chargers, realizing they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender with Brees at quarterback, put the franchise tag on him, a one-year contract for $8.08 million.

    "Of course I wanted a long-term deal," Brees said, "and, of course, I wanted the Chargers to commit to me and say, ‘You're our guy for the long term.' But thinking about that stuff takes your mind off what you really should be thinking about - and that's how you can win the championship."

    Schottenheimer will play the quarterback who gives his team the best chance to win, regardless of contractual implications, and that's fine with Brees.

    "Next year, one of us will have to go," he said. "Financially, that's probably the way it will have to be."

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