Chargers Executed Free Agency Plan

The Chargers can finally exhale. The demanding task of compiling a squad in record time is about done. By most accounts, the Chargers came out winners, especially with the unexpected development that wide receiver Malcom Floyd would return.

When free agency hit the Chargers had more than 20 unsigned players of various status to contend with. It was obvious everyone couldn't be brought back, but the Chargers retained most the players they targeted.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson is here because of the franchise tag. Other key players returning were right tackle Jeromey Clary, safety Eric Weddle, defensive end Jacques Cesaire and backup quarterback Billy Volek.

The Chargers, at the right price, would have loved for linebacker Kevin Burnett and running back Darren Sproles to remain. But the team's stringer of catches looks pretty good, especially when adding free-agent linebackers Takeo Spikes and Travis LaBoy.

"We had talked about what we were going to do a couple months prior to it happening," team president Dean Spanos said. "Nobody knew exactly how it was going to play out, but we knew we had to get a lot done in a short time frame. I clearly knew, in order of importance, what we had to get done. If it fell the right way, we believed that we could construct an excellent roster.

"I believe that's what happened. You see the signings we had, and we pretty much executed our plan well and gave us the ability to retain a bunch of our own players."

That said, all the comings and goings weren't positives.

The team nearly cleaned house at inside linebacker with Burnett, their leading tackler last year, veteran starter Stephen Cooper and a solid short-yardage player in Brandon Siler fleeing.

The addition of Spikes, coming off the fourth triple-digit tackling season of his 14-year career, softens the loss of the other inside guys. But the Chargers are banking on Donald Butler and Jonas Mouton to fill in the slack opposite Spikes.

The Rolling Stones told us long ago you can't always get what you want. But it seems, for the most part, the Chargers got what they need.

"With no offseason, the key was to keep continuity wherever possible," said Ed McGuire, the Chargers' contract negotiator. "We did that, which was big. Then we added some key pieces to that veteran core and assembled what I believe to be a quality roster. Our work is never done. We're always on the lookout for quality players."

Looking toward Thursday's preseason opener against the Seahawks, the Chargers' moves will be on display.

The Chargers, if nothing else, seem to have an advantage over teams forced to do an overhaul.

Instead the Chargers have the same head coach, same offensive and defensive schemes -- although defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is new -- and a hardy collection of integral players familiar with how the Chargers go about their business.

"We lost a couple of guys that contributed over the past few years, but it is nice and I think it helps you," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "And the guys that we added from other teams are guys that have a great deal of success. They are coming in and adding another dimension, not only on the field but in the locker room as well.

"I certainly feel good about the team we are going to be but we 0-0 and we got a lot of work to do and hopefully the confidence is there and the camaraderie will continue to grow."


Floyd chose Chargers over Ravens

WR Malcom Floyd
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
Wide receiver Malcom Floyd is back, but it was a close call. He received a better offer and a full-court press from the Ravens before deciding the grass (cash) may be greener, but he preferred staying with the Chargers for a two-year, $5 million deal.

"Talking to all these people from other teams, you almost feel like a traitor," Floyd said. "That's part of how I knew I belonged in San Diego."

Not only is Floyd productive, he's among the more popular players in the locker room.

"It's a bonus to get Malcom back," said coach Norv Turner. "He's one of the most well-liked, well-respected guys on the team. Our players were excited when the announcement was made that he signed. Having Malcom and Vincent (Jackson) and (Antonio) Gates and all the other receivers from the very beginning is huge."

Floyd was looking for $5 million a year, a price too steep for others.

"We set a scale of what teams would have to beat, and I think I set those numbers too high," Floyd said. "In a weird way, that's good, because I'm so happy to be here.

"It's like college recruiting all over again. I got a taste of it and it was all right, but I'm so glad to be home. This team is my family. It's so hard picturing yourself in a different uniform, especially when coaches are breaking it down for you. I was torn, but I'm happy to be back.

"Free agency was a stressful process that I'm really trying to put behind me. You go through a lot of emotions during that period, but it's time to win some games and focus on football."

-- The Chargers a topic on Rush Limbaugh's radio show? How so?

Limbaugh was getting animated that a senator thought the Tea Party scored a moral victory during the debt-ceiling debate. Limbaugh blew a fuse with that comment and leaned on the 1994 Chargers to prove his point:

"So the Chargers end up going to the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. And they got blown out. I mean, it wasn't even close. Jerry Rice set records. Steve Young set records. It was said that the Chargers made a game of it in the fourth, was a moral victory. It was not a moral victory. It wasn't a victory, period. There are no moral victories."

Limbaugh's connection with the Bolts is strong. Years ago, Limbaugh wrote the foreword for Chargers owner Alex Spanos' book.

-- First-round pick Corey Liuget is signed, sealed and ready to get to work. "It's a privilege to wear one of these jerseys," said Liuget, a defensive end expected to challenge for a starting role. "Not a lot of people get to do that. It feels good to be part of this league and this organization. It's definitely a great accomplishment to make it here, but I want to show that I belong at this level."

Liuget has to fast-forward his learning curve after no offseason workouts and missing the first week of camp.

"I'm sure his head's spinning while trying to get caught up. He's a week behind the other rookies, but you can see the athleticism and the physical tools," Turner said.

-- The Chargers held Saturday afternoon's practice at Qualcomm Stadium, with some 10,000 fans taking in the workout. "We had the Wednesday night practice at Qualcomm, and it was great," coach Norv Turner said. "This is even better because it's day time and more of a standard game-time environment. There's a great group of fans out here, and I thought we had great energy throughout the practice session."

-- The Chargers have decided to go to Dallas early to work out with the Cowboys for two days leading to their Aug. 21 preseason game.

-- ILB Takeo Spikes said general manager A.J. Smith told him he's been brought to San Diego to do more than collect tackles.

"He said he needed leadership," Spikes said. "He said 'we know you can play, we all know you can make plays. But I need something that others can't bring to the table. I need leadership.' That's not me going out and doing something different -- just be who I am and just do what I do."

Strange, but Spikes has never made the playoffs in 14 seasons.

-- No telling if LB Bront Bird will make the team -- he likely won't. But he made the camp highlight film after recording an interception and then leaving RB Jordan Todman in his wake with a spin move that former Charger Darren Sproles would have been envious of.

-- T Nic Richmond is fighting for a backup role, but he's not going unnoticed. Richmond spent last year on the practice squad and impressed coaches. His stock remains strong.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is early August, and our goal is to be playing in February, so it's a long haul. And we are going to make sure we manage his situation and we have him when we need him." -- Coach Norv Turner on monitoring Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates' sore foot.


-- OLB Travis LaBoy is getting a ton of snaps with the first team, filling in for Larry English. LaBoy came over from the 49ers in the offseason.

-- RB Ryan Mathews looked like a tired puppy after not being able to get through camp's opening day gasser. But he has found his football legs of late and looks good. Mathews needs to shore up his pass protection, something that kept him from consistent snaps last year.

-- FB Kenny Younger was released to make roster room for WR Malcom Floyd.

-- RT Tyronne Green continues to push Louis Vasquez for a starting role; Green is a favorite of the coaches.

-- WR Laurent Robinson is slowly fitting in, but his practices seem to include a drop or two. He needs to show more consistency, especially as a possession receiver.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Patrick Crayton vs. Seyi Ajirotutu for No. 3 receiver.

One of these guys came close to being a starter, then Malcom Floyd did a turnabout and returned to the Chargers. Crayton came on strong last year and seemed to develop a good connection with Philip Rivers. But he hurt his wrist down the stretch which derailed what was shaping up as a breakout season. Ajirotutu took advantage of Crayton being out and proved to the coaches he is more than an afterthought. This competition will go down to the season opener. Right now, Crayton has the lead.


David Binn vs. Mike Windt at long snapper.

Binn is nearly a San Diego institution -- no Charger has played more games than Binn. But he missed last season with a hamstring injury and the Chargers ran through four other long snappers trying to replace him. Binn is healthy, but the Chargers brought back Windt, more so of as an insurance policy. This is Binn's job to lose, but it bears watching.

-- Marcus Gilchrist vs. Dante Hughes for No. 3 cornerback:

The starting positions are set with Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason. But Cason has missed some time with a broken finger and it's been Gilchrist who is taking the snaps in his place. That is giving him a leg up on Hughes, but this decision will be made based on the preseason games.


-- DE Corey Liuget finally signed his contract and now is making the mistakes he needs to get past to contribute. He will battle Jacques Cesaire to start opposite Luis Castillo.

-- ILB Jonas Mouton is holding up, although he had to miss some practice time with a cracked tooth.

-- CB Marcus Gilchrist continues to open his eyes with his play. He saw a few looks at safety, but is getting the majority of his snaps at cornerback with Antoine Cason limited with a finger injury.

-- WR Vincent Brown is falling behind as he's yet to practice much with his leg injury.

-- CB Shareece Wright is getting some work, but he can't climb above the third or fourth teams at his position.

-- OT Steve Schilling is learning but there's not much room at his position; he could be headed toward the practice squad.

-- RB Jordan Todman is holding up and has already drawn praise from running backs coach Ollie Wilson.


-- WR Vincent Brown continues to miss time with a hamstring/quad injury. He was hurt on the first day of camp and is quickly falling behind.

-- TE Antonio Gates (foot) will continue to limit his practice time.

-- CB Antonie Cason (finger) is limited in some of his work.

-- OLB Larry English (foot) will likely miss the first two preseason games.

How well did A.J. Smith handle free agency? Discuss inside the message boards.

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