If I were a carpenter…

Ever since A.J. Smith took over as general manager of the San Diego Chargers, he has yearned to stock the roster with unparalleled depth. That mission is now near completion, and all that is left is to figure out what to do with all of these players.

It is something I like to refer to as the Carlos Joseph quandary. Joseph was a seventh-round pick of the Chargers last year, and the team hoped to groom him into a viable tackle prospect. At six-foot-six and 342 lbs., he has ideal size for the position. He also has impressive power and athleticism, and starred at the University of Miami, a program that has become a breeding ground for NFL talent.

Now, only a year later, Joseph seems to be a forgotten man. If he hopes to even sniff the active roster this year, he will have to leap frog veteran Leander Jordan and hold off rookie Wesley Britt. While doing so may be possible, it is nonetheless unlikely.

So what should the team do with him? This dilemma applies not to just Joseph, but to other young players who may not make the regular-season roster as well.

Ruvell Martin led all of NFL Europe with 679 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, but must leapfrog Malcom Floyd to have a shot at making the team. Andrew Pinnock is a bruising runner who can block and catch the ball out of the backfield, but his lack of a true position, combined with the Chargers' incredible depth at running back, may make him expendable.

With one look at their depth chart the Chargers must realize they are going to have to cut ties with several promising young prospects. What they would be wise to do is to start hitting the phone lines and see if some of these players can be moved. That is what the team did in 2002, and it worked out beautifully for them.

First, the team traded tight end Steve Heiden to the Cleveland Browns for a seventh-round pick in the 2003 draft. That pick was later traded mid-season to Dallas for offensive guard Kelvin Garmon, a run-blocking specialist with mauling abilities. Garmon became a starter within a matter of weeks, and in 2004, when the Chargers line was marred with injuries and instabilities, Garmon was the only player consistent enough to start all sixteen games.

That wasn't their only noteworthy trade. Also in 2002, the team traded wide receiver Trevor Gaylor to the Atlanta Falcons for a seventh-round selection in the 2004 draft that was later used to select starting right tackle Shane Olivea.

The Chargers are again in position to pull off deals of similar magnitude. These trades may not seem like much when first consummated, but they can have incredible significance down the line.

The team would be well-advised to send out some feelers now, as to gauge the interest league-wide in some of their young prospects. That way when training camp rolls around and the inevitable onslaught of injuries begins to take its toll, the Chargers will be ready to pounce with trade proposals.

With as many talented young players as the Chargers have, they should be able to acquire at least two future draft picks easily. Not only is this the right thing to do for the team, but for the players as well. These guys need to play in order to move up in the football world, and if the Chargers can't possibly play them, they might as well move them. It's a win-win situation for both player and team.

"This is a competitive division," said head coach Marty Schottenheimer. "The draft is just one aspect of being able to put yourself in position from a personnel standpoint that you can compete effectively."

The Chargers get more draft picks with which they can guarantee the future influx of even more young talent; and the players get a chance to show the rest of the world what they are truly made of. Deals are waiting to be made, and Carlos Joseph is itching to play.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net


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