Revolving Receivers

Philip Rivers completed passes to 17 players, proving he could guide the league's No. 1 offense no matter who was on the other end of his attempts. With several pass catchers slated for free agency, the San Diego Chargers must decide who to bring back in an attempt to do even better in 2011.

The big-name free agent is Vincent Jackson. A Pro Bowler after the 2009 season, Jackson made only a cameo appearance in 2010, playing in five games (three full games, really) and finishing with 14 catches and 248 yards.

His statement game came in Week 15 when he caught five passes for 112 yards and three scores. It served as a reminder to the Chargers -- and the rest of the league -- that he is still a game-changer. Unfortunately, Jackson wants to be paid in-line with the league's other game-changers, a price San Diego will not pay until he proves he can keep his nose clean for an extended period of time.

Jackson's situation will be settled along with the CBA. If the Chargers are given the option of a franchise tag, they will slap it on Jackson. He would be wise to sign it, too, after his last holdout cost him over $3 million.

Next is line is Malcom Floyd, who has a flair for the spectacular but a glaring lack of consistency. Durability is a major issue -- he has played in all 16 games just once in his career -- and his ability to be more than a deep threat is questionable.

The Chargers would like to bring back Floyd. He has been raised in San Diego's system and enjoys a great chemistry with Philip Rivers. However, if another team is willing to pay him like a No. 1 receiver -- a team like the Oakland Raiders, perhaps -- the Chargers would be crazy to match.

WR Legedu Naanee
Doug Pensinger/Getty
Another free agent is Legedu Naanee, who like Floyd, lost a golden opportunity when his season was truncated by a hamstring injury. Naanee started the season by catching five passes for 110 yards in the season opener. He played in just six of the next 13 games, totaling 10 catches for 123 yards in that span. Then, in the final two weeks, he combined for eight catches and 138 yards.

These up-and-down numbers show both his ability and his inconsistency. The Chargers may be ready to move on, as Naanee has yet to register 25 receptions in any of his four seasons. But he remains a gifted and versatile athlete who can win outside the hashes or out of the slot. If the price is right, he deserves another look.

The final pass-catching free agent is Kelley Washington, who came on late in the season to become a huge weapon on third downs. He caught all 13 passes thrown his way and made big contributions on special teams. He will not be one of Rivers' top three targets next year, but the Chargers will make a big push to bring him back.

Whichever receivers re-sign with join Patrick Crayton (signed through 2011) and rookie surprise Seyi Ajirotutu in a receiving corps that aims to be far more stable next time out (Buster Davis will be released because of his inability to stay healthy). This year, no wide receiver finished with even 40 receptions. The goal next year should be to get three wide-outs to that plateau.

Projected 2011 Receiving Corps

  • 1. Vincent Jackson
  • 2. Patrick Crayton
  • 3. Legedu Naanee
  • 4. Kelley Washington
  • 5. Seyi Ajirotutu

Could Larry Fitzgerald join San Diego's receivers? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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