Volek in line for new deal?

Norv Turner has made a career of developing young quarterbacks. Case in point: in his one year with the San Francisco 49ers, he bolstered Alex Smith's passer rating by 34 points. It was assumed that Turner's arrival in San Diego would cement Philip River's place among the league's elite and ready Charlie Whitehurst for the No. 2 role. Instead, veteran Billy Volek has reaped the biggest benefits.

Billy Volek never got entirely comfortable last season after being acquired by the Chargers in week three. When he was pressed into action in week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals, the Chargers called 13 running plays and three passes, asking as little of Volek as possible. Those three passes resulted in a sack, a 4-yard completion and a misfire on third-and-2.

Volek has thrived in his first full offseason with the Chargers, thanks in large part to tutelage of Norv Turner. Volek has learned to be more patient and to rely on his check-down options rather than forcing the ball downfield. Through two weeks of preseason play, his 115.8 passer rating is the fourth best in the league.

Also working in Volek's favor is the lack of distinction between the Chargers' first- and second-string pass-catchers. He has worked extensively with Craig Davis, Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Scott Chandler. Add to that list LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, two talents who can dominate with any quarterback at the helm, and Volek has an abundance of weapons at his disposal should he be called into action.

Volek has proven that he can excel with even a modestly talented cast. In 2004, he became the fourth player in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in consecutive weeks. He did that with Derrick Mason and Drew Bennett as his primary targets. Imagine what he could do with the likes of Gates, Tomlinson and Vincent Jackson.

The Chargers face a difficult decision regarding Volek's future. He is in the final year of his contract and has a promising youngster, Charlie Whitehurst, eagerly awaiting his spot on the depth chart. However, the Chargers may reluctant to head into the 2008 season without an experienced back-up, especially as the team expects to be in Super Bowl contention for the foreseeable future.

It has long been assumed that Volek would watch the 2007 season from the sidelines and then enter free agency shortly thereafter. Instead, he is making a strong case for a new contract similar to the three-year, $5.4 million pact recently signed by Seattle Seahawks back-up Seneca Wallace.

Volek is one play away from taking over the reins of the NFL's most explosive offense. As he has shown throughout the preseason, he knows exactly what to do with it.


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