Mastering Their Trade

The San Diego Chargers are finally making the most out of their draft picks, and they are doing it by trading them away. For the fourth time this season, the Chargers have been involved in a big-time trade. Each of them has involved both players and picks changing hands, and each has given a much needed facelift to a historically underachieving Chargers franchise.

In the most recent trade, the Chargers added over 9,000 yards and 50 touchdown receptions worth of experience to a receiving corps in desperate need of a helping hand, or two. True, the cost of acquiring former Buccaneer and Jaguar Keenan McCardell was not cheap, but a closer look reveals that the Chargers have handled the dealing of their draft picks very well.

First, there was the David Boston trade. The Chargers traded the ultra-talented but highly inconsistent Boston to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for former first round selection Jamar Fletcher and a sixth round pick in the 2005 draft.

Well, that sixth round pick was a part of the package that helped lure McCardell, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, in the deadline deal just days ago.

Fletcher, meanwhile, has an interception and a fumble recovery respectively in the last two games, and is now teetering on being moved into the starting line-up as a result of the struggles of another former first round selection, Sammy Davis. Fletcher was beaten by Dez White for the winning touchdown last Sunday in Atlanta, but overall his play has been impressive, and his veteran experience has been welcomed by the Chargers very green secondary.

Next for the Chargers was their blockbuster deal in the NFL draft, in which the Chargers swapped Eli Manning for an NC State icon whom the Giants had selected fourth overall, Philip Rivers. Often overlooked though, is what else the Chargers received in that deal. There was, of course, the fact that the Giants threw in their first round pick in the 2005 draft. However, there was also the third round pick that provided the Chargers with the luxury of taking a kicker high in the draft. So the Chargers selected Nate Kaeding, who has lived up to his own hype, starting the season nine for nine on field goal attempts, and 19 of 19 on extra points tries.

In that same Giants trade, the Chargers also netted a fifth round pick in 2005 draft. This pick was later shipped off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a part of the Chargers third key trade of the year, an exchange for offensive tackle Roman Oben. Upon his arrival, Oben stepped right into the starting line-up and has started every game at the pivotal left tackle position so far this season, stabilizing a line that has been plagued by injuries and inexperience for years.

Now, the Chargers have finalized another huge trade, with the team landing the 6-foot-one, 191 pound playmaker from UNLV. A quick look at what the team has gained versus what they have lost through these trades shows what a tremendous job that AJ Smith has been doing.

The Chargers have added a potential starter at right cornerback Jamar Fletcher, their ever-accurate kicker Nate Kaeding, their starting left tackle Roman Oben and their soon-to-be number one receiver Keenan McCardell.

The only player of their own they had to give up to acquire such a haul is Boston. Last season, Boston had 70 receptions for 880 yards and 7 touchdowns. McCardell totaled 84 receptions for 1,174 yards and 8 touchdowns. So not only have the Chargers improved at wide receiver, but they have added a slew of other talented players as well.

One would think that with the Chargers giving up so little of their own talent in return for so much, they must have been handing out draft picks like they didn't want them, as if they were the Redskins or something. But on the contrary, the Chargers still have a full slate of seven picks in the 2005 draft. The only difference is that their third round pick, in essence, has been exchanged for an additional first rounder instead.

AJ Smith has played the trade market as well as any general manager in football this year. His team has gained markedly from these four trades, as they prepare to embark on the softest portion of their schedule. As Abraham Lincoln might say if he were still alive today, when four trades score with only seven wins to go (in order to claim a spot in the playoffs), AJ Smith may have emancipated Chargers fans from a eight-year hiatus in playoff purgatory.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@sandiegosports.net

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