Bolts Notebook: Shifting Through Subterfuge

The Chargers made a lot of headlines this week while we had our nose to the NFL Combine grindstone. So, it’s time now to take a look back on some of the week’s biggest developments and offer up our take on what they really mean for the season ahead and the future of the Chargers.

Return of the King

While NFL teams can only meet with draft prospects in 15-minute intervals at the NFL Combine, there is no limit on how much time they can spend chatting with player agents. That is why this week is known around the league as the unofficial start of free agency, even though the market doesn’t officially open until March 10.

The Chargers got their offseason started on the right foot by reaching a four-year, $28 million deal with starting LT King Dunlap. The 29-year-old Dunlap did a fantastic job protecting Philip Rivers’ blindside last season, allowing just three sacks in more than 600 pass attempts.

The contract comes with some risk -- last season was Dunlap’s first starting all 16 games -- but the deal is team-friendly for a top-tier pass protector.

“King has been top notch the last few years for us at left tackle,” Rivers said. “It’s very well-deserved for him personally and a huge signing for our team.”

This deal solidifies the tackle position, as GM Tom Telesco said earlier this week the plan is to keep D.J. Fluker at right tackle (although that could change if the Chargers find great value on a right tackle either in free agency or the draft). This should allow Telesco to focus on improving the team’s interior line over the coming months.

Three’s a Crowd

The political gamesmanship has bumped up another level in the team’s hunt for a new stadium. Less than a week after stadium point person Mark Fabiani and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer sat in their separate bunkers, tossing verbal grenades at each other, team owner Dean Spanos met with Faulconer and came away with an agreement for an accelerated schedule for the City’s nine-person stadium task force.

“We are pleased that the Task Force decided on Friday to accelerate its work and deliver a report within the next three months,” the team said in a statement. “This is good news for the process, and Dean joined the Mayor in supporting this expedited schedule. We pledged to continue to work cooperatively with the Task Force. Dean emphasized that we remain committed to finding a publicly acceptable stadium solution here in San Diego, but Dean also explained in detail to the Mayor the reasons that the franchise must create other options for itself in the event that an agreement is not reached.”

There has been a lot of talking, but as usual, little of substance has been said.

For one thing, any financing plan constructed by the task force is expected to rely on a major contribution from the taxpayers. That would require voters to pass a ballot measure that would take place in November 2016, by which point the Chargers could already be playing in the Rose Bowl while waiting on the construction of a new stadium in Carson City.

Another unresolved issue: the Chargers claim Rams owner Stan Kroenke forced their hand by building his own stadium in Los Angeles with designs on bringing the Rams back to L.A. If that happens, and the Chargers and Raiders become co-tenants in Carson, that would put three teams in the Los Angeles market. And while the Chargers gush about the importance of L.A. dollars, it is doubtful the team could do well as the third wheel in Los Angeles.

In a recent poll by the Los Angeles Times that asked “Which team do you most want to return to L.A.?” only 5 percent of respondents picked the Chargers. So if Los Angeles cannot support three teams (and nearly all financial experts agree it cannot) and the market would clearly prefer the Rams and Raiders over the Chargers, it remains to be seen just how much steam San Diego’s Carson plan truly has.

Lightning Quicks

--With Dunlap back in the fold, the clear top priority now becomes re-signing Brandon Flowers. He provided leadership and playmaking ability in his first season in San Diego, pacing the team with three interceptions. When Flowers and 2014 first-round pick Jason Verrett are healthy and on the field together, the defense functions significantly better.

--There are two other free agents the Chargers would be wise to re-sign, although they are not generating much buzz: center Doug Legursky and defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews. Legursky played extremely well before getting hurt and could push Chris Watt for the stating center position. Mathews emerged as a key cog in the defensive line rotation and could see even more playing time if he returns in 2015.

--Want to know who the Chargers will sign away from other teams? Follow this three-step formula ...

Step one: Which new coaches did the Chargers bring in this offseason? The only one of note is Mike Nolan, who will coach the team’s linebackers.

Step two: Where did Nolan coach last? He was the defensive coordinator in Atlanta.

Step three: Which Falcons defenders are about the become free agents? DT Corey Peters, OLB Kroy Biermann and CB Robert McClain are all set to become free agents and all could fill needs in San Diego. Atlanta’s best pending free agent is OLB Sean Weatherspoon, but he is coming off an ACL injury and is a seemingly poor fit in the 3-4 defense, which makes his addition unlikely.

You’re welcome.



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Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com 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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