Chargers Offseason Forecast Part Deux

<b>THE TRADE</b><br><br> David Boston. Traded to the Dolphins. For a conditional sixth-round pick in 2005. And a player to be named later (Jamar Fletcher). It happened so fast. One season he was here, the next he was gone. Boston's trade combined with the release of Marcellus Wiley signifies the Chargers philosophy of Schotty's way or the highway. Players who don't buy into the team concept are shipped out faster than a Fed-Ex package.

The talent level diminishes with such moves, but the Patriots recently proved that team chemistry, combined with solid talent and coaching, can get you a long way. Unfortunately, the Chargers talent and coaching are not comparable to the Patriots. Boston reportedly had a negative effect on team chemistry, with a lack-luster attitude, true pension for being late, and solitude being the un-whispered culprits.

He is gone-- so chemistry is no longer an excuse for the Chargers. However, there's now an eye-popping need for a #1 receiving threat, still some monies to be paid to Boston (though he is now a Dolphin), and the issue of the low compensation the Chargers received in the trade.

Taking those factors into account (not to mention the media backlash that the Chargers had to know would accompany such a move), and you have to figure that the team's relationship with Boston was more strained than originally thought, or something else was wrong.

Coincidentally a few days after the trade was made official, Miami newspapers reported a possible degenerative heel condition as part of Boston's baggage. Fact or Fiction? IF fact, Charger fans can fire some ammo back at the rest of the league.

The Chargers bit the proverbial bullet on the Boston trade. Some scoffed at the seemingly low compensation received but the word is that there wasn't much of a market for Boston. Not with his contract and baggage.

If there was an error on the side of the Chargers perhaps it was that he was put on the block too late. Why not put him on the block much earlier, that way teams didn't have the deadline as leverage in trade negotiations? Unfortunately, we don't know when he was officially on the block, only when it was reported. So the Chargers get the benefit of the doubt.

There's also the argument of waiting until the Owens decision came down, that way Baltimore would have a chance to outbid the Dolphins for Boston. Makes sense, but the concern for the Chargers was getting out of the deal as cheaply as possible; compensation took a backseat. Boston's bonus deadline played a major role, and unfortunately the Owens‚ ruling came down the day after this deadline.

So it was a 6th rounder in 2005, and Jamar Fletcher. Which the Chargers figure is better than nothing, and beats the alternatives of keeping a guy that "just wasn't a fit"-- or outright cutting him, which entails greater salary-cap implications, and the risk that he signs with an AFC West foe.

Jamar Fletcher was the "player to be named later", and should be seen as a guy, that at the very least, battles Kevin House for the fourth corner spot.

There's also the thinking that this allows the Chargers to give the talented but raw Drayton Florence a look at free safety. Fletcher, a former first round pick, adds yet another young, talented player to the Chargers emerging secondary. He struggled in Miami, but let's not forget he was a first round talent not too long ago.

The trade brings up another intrigue. Who's calling the shots? On the surface this appears to be a Schottenheimer move. Smith may have the final say, but not without heavy input from Schottenheimer. Would another GM have felt that Boston's pros on the field outweigh his cons in the locker room?

THE DRAFT

Smith seems to be in control. His poker face has been effective to the point that nobody, and I mean nobody, has a clue what the Chargers are thinking with that first pick. Some say they'll take Manning, some say they'll trade down, some say it's now Fitzgerald, some say it's Gallery.

Things may leak out after the ongoing workouts, but don't read too much into it. By the end of the week the Chargers could be in love with two quarterbacks and cool on another, which could essentially be the one they really want.

Uncertainty seems to favor the Chargers. Teams that are hot for Manning, Gallery, or Fitzgerald may be forced to send the Chargers an offer in order to lock in their targeted player; mainly based off the mystery surrounding the Chargers.

The players worthy of the #1 overall selection are wide receivers, quarterbacks, and Robert Gallery. The Boston trade put: need for a receiver and Chargers and first pick, in the same zip-code, whereas before they weren't even in the same state. Teams will look at the Chargers' roster and see that the any of the top 4 or 5 players in the draft could be targets in the middle of AJ Smith's crosshairs. More uncertainty = more trade value seems to be Smith's approach.

In the 2003 draft, the Baltimore Ravens shrewdly dealt their 2004 first-round pick, to obtain an extra 2003 first-round pick in order to coup Kyle Boller. It's possible the Chargers would try a similar move in order to land two players in the first round. Ideally, the Chargers would gain extra picks by trading down a few spots, while possibly choosing between whoever is left between Robert Gallery, Larry Fitzgerald, or Mike Williams. The picks obtained from the trade would give the Chargers the firepower needed to coup another pick in the first round to get the quarterback many feel is the one they want, Philip Rivers. It may be a longshot, but the NFL gets stranger by the day. Rivers was "very accurate" in his workout on Monday and continues to draw praise from scouts. The Charger brass was there.

THE WEST

The AFC West has been a division of intrigue this off-season. The Chiefs have stuck with the status quo, re-signing many players on a mediocre defense. The Raiders refuse to give in to youth; they got older, if that's possible. The Broncos are making a serious push to go far in 2004, but you could say that about them every off-season.

Then there are the Chargers with a newfound approach: cut the deadweight, sign lower dollar free agents, and build off of young talent. The free agent signings have been low key, but specific and inexpensive. A nice shift from off-seasons past. Players like Goff, Godfrey, Dyson, and Foley all spoke of leadership when asked what they will bring to the Chargers. That's a far cry from Marcellus Wiley "bucking the bolt" after a meaningless sack in the final game of a meaningless season. It's a far cry from David Boston abandoning the sidelines to talk on his cell-phone while the rest of his teammates suffer another defeat.

FACE IT, THEY'RE REBUILDING

Smith has taken some heat for his moves but it's hard for me to deny his logic. Especially when he's building a team and not merely maintaining an established one. 2004 will not be the last season in NFL history. This approach won't get the Chargers to the Super Bowl in 2004, but I don't think any approach would've. The draft will be his best friend, or worst enemy. AJ Smith is on the clock, and under the microscope.

Will Mortensen can be reached at will.powered@verizon.net

SD Super Chargers Top Stories