Chargers done in free agency

The San Diego Chargers are in the process of cleaning up their house. With the signing of Keenan McCardell to a two-year extension, the Bolts will move away from free agency and secure their own people first. After all, according to the head coach there is no one "worth us pursuing."

The extension of Keenan McCardell was important on a number of fronts. Locking him up for the next three years ensures they at least have a capable number two receiver while evaluating their current crop of receivers.

The progress of Reche Caldwell this offseason has earned praise from Marty Schottenheimer:

"One of the most encouraging things in this offseason is the progress of Reche Caldwell. The other day he took off chasing someone and he was running awfully fast," said the head coach.

But Caldwell is in the last year of his contract and there is no guarantee he will be back. The Chargers still don't know what they have with the former Florida receiver and are eager to find out if he can live up to the billing that made him a second round draft pick in 2001.

Eric Parker is under contract through 2006 and has stepped up when asked. He is not viewed as a number one receiver but as a nice complimentary playmaker in the offense.

Signing McCardell gave them some protection if Caldwell moves on.

And it was his work ethic and leadership that made the signing a must in the eyes of the organization.

"Keenan McCardell has been signed to a two year extension, which we are delighted about," Schottenheimer said. "He, as you well know, brought a tremendous amount of experience and really did a terrific job for us last year. I still marvel at how a guy can come in here on Wednesday and be in the starting lineup on Sunday and can perform as well as he did. He didn't miss a beat.

"We are delighted to have him back and are looking forward to this offseason program."

The one thing Schottenheimer worried about was the results McCardell put up without the benefit of a training camp.

"When you do what he did in the short amount of time he was here – pretty soon people are going to not want to go to training camp," the coach added. "‘I don't need training camp.'

"He would be the exception rather than the rule. It speaks to his commitment. He clearly had to be working diligently prior to coming in here."

As for the rest of free agency, the Chargers will be standing pat. They brought in just two players and signed one from outside the organization, Bhawoh Jue.

"At this juncture, I don't think there is anyone out there in free agency that is worth us pursuing it," Schottenheimer said. "We have certain players that we have targeted and we are anxious to try to re-sign our own."

At the top of the list is Antonio Gates. They are working on a multi-year deal with him but it has been tough agreeing on his worth. Gates has been in the league for two years as an undrafted free agent and earned his first Pro Bowl in 2004. His accomplishments include a new record for touchdowns by a tight end and his value is high.

They do not want to see him get to restricted free agency, feeling a team will offer him a contract that they will have to match regardless of whether he is tendered the highest allotment.

Schottenheimer played his usual part when talking about Drew Brees. Despite giving him over $8 million, he would not call him the starter. He did, however, say it would be tough for someone to dethrone him.

"(Our) objective is to create as much competition as we can," Schottenheimer said. "That elevates the performance of everybody. Do I think someone will beat him out? At this point it is not likely but we are going to find out."

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