Extra Picks Give Bolts Flexibility

The Chargers are feeling flush with three of the first 61 selections in the draft. How they go about executing them is among the conversation topics as the team prepares for next month's draft.

Should the Chargers stand pat at No. 18? Or will general manager A.J. Smith, as he has done in the past, assemble a package of picks - the Chargers have five of the first 89 -- to zoom up the draft board?

Unlike previous years when featuring a roster stacked with talent and pretty well set, this spring brings with it an opportunity to address significant shortcomings after the team missed the playoffs when snapping its string of four straight AFC West titles last year.

It's believed the Chargers will look at the defensive side of the ball, what with an offense that finished last season ranked No. 1. Others argue the defense capped the year with that same ranking, but those numbers were skewed by shoddy special teams play that often meant rival offenses didn't have far too travel.

Along the defensive front, the Chargers are happy with tackle Antonio Garay. But both ends, Luis Castillo and Jacques Cesaire, could be replaced.

At linebacker, the Chargers might be eyeing some fresh bodies as well. Inside linebackers Stephen Cooper and Kevin Burnett are relatively productive, but both will be unrestricted free agents. Brandon Siler, another inside linebacker, was tendered at a low level and he could flee.

Then there's Larry English, a first-rounder two years ago who has yet to deliver an impact. The Chargers might be tempted to find someone to play opposite Shaun Phillips.


With the Chargers thinking defense, the thinking is Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt would be selected at No. 18; Watt would replace Jacques Cesaire. But general manager A.J. Smith could trade up and go after California defensive end Cameron Jordan. Jordan's stock continues to rise after an impressive Combine showing.

SS Bob Sanders
Darron Cummings/AP

--Safety Bob Sanders has signed a one-year deal with the Chargers, the team confirmed. Financial terms were not known.

"We are all very excited to add Bob Sanders to our defense," Chargers GM A.J. Smith said in a statement. "We have always held him in high regard. He's a smart, physical, instinctive player. His intensity and playmaking ability can make an immediate impact on our defense."

Sanders passed a physical with Jacksonville and also visited with the Bills and Jets, making Thursday's signing a bit of a surprise. In San Diego, the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has an opportunity to step into the starting strong safety role. The job was shared by Paul Oliver and Steve Gregory last season with rookie Darrell Stuckey not ready for a significant role in 2010.

"There's no question I'm excited. The fact that Bob was available and excited about being here and then having it work out is great," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "Our guys have unbelievable respect for him and what he's done through the years. Certainly he knows what we're capable of doing, so it's a great fit."

Sanders returned from a torn biceps in his left arm in 2009 to start the season opener in 2010 for the Colts, but promptly tore the biceps in his right arm in the first quarter and eventually wound up on injured reserve.

"When you do something like this obviously there's some risk involved but the upside outweighs that," Turner said. "He's healthy and he's excited about the opportunity."

The 2004 second-round pick finished his Colts career with 46 starts in 48 games, 373 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 13 passes defensed, three fumbles recovered, two fumbles forced and six interceptions. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2007.

--The Chargers are mourning the loss of yet another member of their lone Super Bowl team. Defensive tackle Shawn Lee recently died because of complications from double pneumonia. Lee is the sixth member of the 1994 team to have died. The others are Curtis Whitely, Rodney Culver, Doug Miller, Chris Mims and David Griggs. "He was a great teammate," said Harry Swayne, a Ravens executive who was the starting left tackle for that team. "It's tough to see someone with so much life ahead of him passing away."

--Two players were signed to one-year contracts, DE Ogemdi Nwagbuo and LB James Holt.

--The Chargers placed tender offers on many of their free agents, although it's not clear if those tags will mean anything once the new labor agreement is put in place. Those tendered were S Eric Weddle (first-round tender), RT Jeromey Clary (second), CB Dante Hughes (third), LB Antwan Barnes (fourth), S Paul Oliver (fourth) and LB Brandon Siler (seventh). RB Mike Tolbert (second) and LB Antwan Applewhite (second) will likely remain restricted free agents because of their service time. OL Brandyn Dombrowski was tendered as an exclusive rights free agent. Among those not tendered was WR Legedu Naanee. "We're just doing business according to the (current) agreement," GM A.J. Smith said.

--WR Vincent Jackson has yet to sign his one-year franchise tender. Jackson has said he wants to stay in San Diego and deserves a long-term deal.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The most important thing a guy does is what he does on the football field in pads between the sidelines. That's the No. 1 thing that you base your grade on." -- Director of college scouting John Spanos on how much Combine workouts figure into player evaluations.


With the Chargers placing tenders among the players they want back, one no longer welcome is wide receiver Legedu Naanee. His inconsistent production was part of the reason he was let go. He also harmed his standing with the organization when being arrested recently for public intoxication.

With Naanee gone, that says the Chargers are confident Seyi Ajirotutu can supply depth behind the big three of Vincent Jackson, Patrick Crayton and Malcom Floyd.

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