SDBR Free Agent Profile: WR Leonard Hankerson

The Chargers need bring in some more weapons for Philip Rivers, especially if Eddie Royal departs as a free agent. One interesting candidate is Leonard Hankerson, a former third-round pick of the Redskins. He has the size, physicality and route-running ability to lift San Diego’s offense.

I’ll admit, I’ve had a man crush on Hankerson since I first saw him play in-person at the 2011 Senior Bowl. Only twice in all my years covering the Senior Bowl have I seen a receiver who I felt strongly was a perfect fit for Rivers and the Chargers offense; Hankerson was one and Ramses Barden (2009) was the other.

Hankerson entered the 2011 draft with a third-round grade. Washington ended up selecting in him in the middle of the third round (No. 79 overall), just three picks before the Chargers went on the clock and plucked a receiver of their own (Vincent Brown). Interestingly enough, Hankerson was picked just one selection after another receiver, Austin Pettis, who joined the Chargers as a free agent earlier this offseason.

After spending his rookie season working his way into Washington’s rotation, Hankerson carved out a nice little role for himself. In 2012, he caught 38 passes for 543 yards three touchdowns. He was on pace to do even better in 2013, as he moved into the starting line-up caught 30 passes for 375 yards and three scores in just 10 games. Unfortunately, he tore his LCL and ACL in a Week 11 game against the Eagles, forcing him to miss the rest of the season and begin 2014 on the PUP list.

Hankerson remained on the PUP list until Nov. 4 last season. He wound up being active for just one game, but his ability to work his way back onto active roster shows he was finally getting healthy. If the Chargers add him as a free agent, they can expect him to finally be back at 100 percent for the first time since his injury.

Said Hankerson: “I’m going to be doing the same thing I’ve been doing ... Taking it into the offseason, work hard, do what I got to do to get better every day, stay on the grind. That’s all I can do, control what I can control.”

When healthy, Hankerson’s skill-set is a perfect fit for the Chargers. He is a precise route-runner, which is an essential quality given how many timing-based plays Frank Reich likes to run. He also has great size; a rotation of Hankerson, Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd and Dontrelle Inman would feature no receiver under 6-foot-2. Additionally, he is a hard worker and an excellent locker-room personality.

It also helps that Hankerson figures to be affordable. Because he is coming off an injury (and his rookie contract), the Chargers could sign him to a one- or two-year deal with an annual salary south of $2 million. That would free up GM Tom Telesco to spend his cap space on positions in more dire shape, such as the O-line, D-line and secondary.

While Telesco finishes up his offseason game plan, Hankerson is working hard to ensure he is ready to impress his next employer. He has established an aggressive workout regiment for this offseason and is determined to make the 2015 season his best.

“I’ll be back and forth [between Washington D.C.] and Florida, just working hard, running routes, getting stronger, catching the ball and doing what I can because that’s my job,” he said.

While he understands his job, his next employer remains a mystery. Personally, I feel the same way now as I did in 2011 -- Hankerson and the Chargers are a perfect match.

How should the Bolts address the receiver position? 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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