The 2006 Chargers have the potential to be scary good.
Scarier still is that this team is only get better, not just as the seasons goes on, but as the years pass by as well. No team in the league is better built for the future than the Chargers. Their window of opportunity is as wide open as Antonio Gates in the gold zone.
The reason for this is that A.J. Smith always keeps an eye toward the future. For example, after the 2006 season the Chargers will likely lose starting inside linebackers Randall Godfrey and Donnie Edwards to retirement and free agency, respectively. Should something like this happen to, say, the Redskins, owner Daniel Snyder would simply trade away three years worth of draft picks to bring in two new veterans. The Chargers, however, will just plug in Stephen Cooper and Tim Dobbins and play on with no discernable drop off.
"We want guys that are very talented, work ethic, passion for the game – tough, physical, competitive, committed guys." Smith explained of the type of players he seeks. "Team oriented players; if you get that mix then you are going to be in good shape."
The Chargers have protected themselves on offense as well, putting promising young prospects behind their aging veterans. Just look at the depth chart. Behind Lorenzo Neal is Andrew Pinnock; behind Keenan McCardell is Vincent Jackson; behind Mike Goff is Scott Mruczkowski.
See a pattern there? Neal, McCardell and Goff are all veterans who were brought in to jump start the Chargers rebuilding process. Pinnock, Jackson and Mruczkowski were all drafted to learn behind the wily veterans. By the time to former trio is ready to ride off into the sunset, the latter will be ready to take over.
Of the 53 players currently on the Chargers roster, 40 were either drafted by the team or signed as undrafted free agents. That gives the Chargers a great core of young talent to work with. Keep in mind, young talent is cheap talent. Rookies cost less than veterans (for the most part), and so developing talent in house can be a money saver, too. That is why the team is in such great salary cap shape, and why it can afford to bring in marquee players like Marlon McCree when they become available.
Smith built this Chargers team from the ground up, hoping to remain competitive each and every year.
"We have a plan to win now and in the future," Smith added. "Plan strategic moves for the future."
From the look of things so far this season, competitive would be an understatement.