"The opportunity to get Keenan McCardell to help try and turn this thing around, when I look at the package, I think it is terrific," General Manager A.J. Smith said.
Despite being 34 years old, McCardell had 84 receptions last year and earned his second Pro Bowl appearance. He is the number one receiver that the team has sought since trading David Boston to Miami. With Reche Caldwell tearing his ACL and done for the season, the deal was a no-brainer. A.J. Smith said the deal had nothing to do with Caldwell going down but it was clear they needed another playmaker.
They thought Kevin Dyson was that player, but he was cut during preseason. They had been looking for someone to step up ever since. Reche Caldwell was playing well and Antonio Gates has emerged as a legitimate threat but no receiver was keeping the opposition from stacking the box.
The Chargers are sitting at .500 with seven teams ahead of them in the standings. They believe they have a shot at the playoffs and have placed some of those expectations on McCardell.
The next three teams they face have a combined record of 5-12, so there is reason to see light at the end of the tunnel.
"You always have to be optimistic," Tomlinson said, eyeing his first chance at making the playoffs. "You have to have a goal of being a top team."
They have a winnable game against Carolina this week and then come home to play Oakland on Halloween. The key will be making it through the next two games with or without their newest toy. McCardell comes with a two week roster exemption but it is unclear if he will need that much time to get into playing shape.
"We try to win now, immediately, and also long range plans," Smith said. "We are trying to get some quality people in here that can play the game of football. Have a mixture of youth and a fine little touch of veterans."
McCardell was, by far, the biggest deal made at the trading deadline. When many thought the deals would be surrounding quarterbacks, wide receivers were the premium. And McCardell is the best of the bunch. To boot, he is expected to honor his current contract.
"We did a lot of checking on Keenan with people that I trust," Smith added.
Even at 34, he offers a true presence that Drew Brees can throw to. And this likely cements Brees' role as the starter the rest of the way.
The addition of McCardell makes that more possible. There is a buzz in the locker room after such a move.
"I am just excited," cornerback Quentin Jammer said with glee. "I am just excited to be a part of this, cause we are turning this thing around. I am just excited to be a part of it."
The Chargers are on the cusp of the playoffs. They had a setback last year and were proclaimed one of the worst team's in the league entering this year. But they have assembled some young talent and are assembling a quality supporting cast of veterans.
McCardell, with 84 receptions a year ago, has some life left in his body. He has posted five 1,000 yard seasons in his career and will bring a sure-handed receiver to the mix.
The playoff push begins now. They could easily be 6-3 heading into the bye week.
"We are confident," Tomlinson confirmed.
Suddenly, the fans are too.
Smith said the influence of Roman Oben, a former teammate of McCardell in Tampa, pushed him to make the move. He heard nothing but positive things from a sit down he had with Oben and that helped influence his decision to pursue McCardell.