Bolts Add Pettis, Eye Future of WR Position

The Chargers made their first veteran addition of the offseason before free agency even got underway, picking up former Rams receiver Austin Pettis. Although more of a ripple than a splash, the addition is a reminder of how GM Tom Telesco likes to operate in the open market.

The Chargers will never be big spenders in free agency under Tom Telesco. He comes from the Bill Polian school of thought, which focuses more on drafting well and retaining in-house players than targeting players from outside organizations. But when Telesco dives into the open waters, he is fishing for young players who still have their best football ahead of them.

Look at what Telesco did last offseason. His key free-agent additions -- Donald Brown, Kavell Conner and David Johnson -- were all coming off rookie contracts with their respective teams. Only backup QB Kellen Clemens had more than five seasons in the league before signing with the Chargers as a free agent.

Pettis, a four-year veteran, fits this same mold.

"There are still three things that have to line up, and between now and March, a lot of players may re-sign with their own teams," Telesco said. "But number one, the ability of the player in the future. So you are not signing a player for what he used to do, but what can he do for us in 2015, 2016 and 2017. So that has to line up. (Then it's) his market value, and then where we are capwise. If those three line up, you're active. If it doesn't, then you're not. So a lot of it depends on the type of player that is there, market value and where we are, and we'll see."

Clemens is familiar with San Diego's latest addition, as he and Pettis played together in St. Louis from 2011 to 2013. Clemens started nine games for the Rams in 2013, when Pettis set career-highs with 38 receptions, 399 yards and four touchdowns.

Pettis signed a reserve-future contract, making him the third receiver to sign such a contract this offseason. Javontee Herndon and Torrence Allen, who spent last season on the practice squad after joining the team as undrafted free agents, inked reserve-future contracts, as well.

Telesco is not done addressing the receiver position. Eddie Royal is slated to become an unrestricted free agent; Malcom Floyd, 34, is in the final year of his contract; and special-teams ace Seyi Ajirotutu is also headed for free agency. Floyd has indicated he is likely to retire after this upcoming season.

Telesco began looking to the future at the receiver position in last year's draft, selecting Baylor's Tevin Reese in the seventh round. However, Reese failed to survive the final round of cuts and spent the season on the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Chargers have a true No. 1 receiver in Keenan Allen, who is expected to be fully recovered from the collarbone injury that cut short his 2014 season. Dontrelle Inman, who was thrust into the lineup for the final six quarters of the season, made in instant impact and figures to be a part of the rotation going forward. Whether Pettis can be a part of that rotation, too, will be determined in the offseason program, training camp and the preseason.

Pettis averaged 31.6 catches in his first three seasons with the Rams, including 11 starts. He struggled last season to make an impact from the slot and was released in October. He also has some experience returns punts and kickoffs, which could provide added value if Royal departs as a free agent.

Pettis' career numbers include 107 catches, 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns.

What do you think of the addition of Austin Pettis? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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