Scout.com's Ed Thompson has confirmed the Chargers held a formal interview with Florida's Jermaine Cunningham. A hybrid defender, Cunningham (6-foot-3, 252 lbs) played defensive end for the Gators but would move to linebacker in San Diego.
Cunningham led Florida last year with seven sacks and 12 TFLs, the third straight season he reached double digits in that category. Depending on his availability -- he is projected to go anywhere between Rounds 2 and 4 -- the Bolts will consider adding Cunningham to a defense that needs to be more disruptive in 2010.
This is not the first time San Diego has shown interest in upgrading the outside linebacker position. Earlier this week, we confirmed the Chargers coaches also held a formal meeting with Clemson's Ricky Sapp.
OLB Jermaine Cunningham
It's clear the Chargers, despite spending last year's first-rounder on Larry English, intend to revamp their pass rush.
San Diego's defense ranked No. 13 in sacks last season (35), but only 15 of those sacks came from OLBs. That is fewer sacks than Shawne Merriman had by himself in 2006, a season in which he played only 12 games.
Speaking of Merriman, his uncertain future is another reason the Chargers are in the market for an OLB. Merriman will be a restricted free agent, yet the team won't give him a long-term commitment unless he keeps his focus on the field and shows he is fully recovered from 2008 knee surgery.
The Chargers has other concerns at the position, too. Shaun Phillips is developing a penchant for ill-timed penalties and is embarrassing himself daily on Twitter, while backups Jyles Tucker and Antwan Applewhite both ended last season on IR.
Cunningham, should he last to Round 3 or later, could be part of the solution. He is quick off the edge and has the strength and agility to knock opposing offensive linemen off balance. He could also contribute in kick coverage, which would help offset the possible loss of Pro Bowler Kassim Osgood.
It's too early to tell if the Chargers are targeting Cunningham or merely doing due diligence. What is clear is that the team is not happy with the performance of its outside linebackers and is determined to fortify the position during the offseason.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.