Bolts Notebook: Chargers Unveil 'Plan B'

With it looking clear two Pro Bowl restricted free agents won't be showing up any time soon, general manager A.J. Smith didn't hesitate to find help. He brought in two potential replacements just in case left tackle Marcus McNeill and wide receiver Vincent Jackson make good on their option of sitting out until the season's final six weeks.

"We were able to move quickly to fill a need at left tackle because our previous starter doesn't plan on being here for a while," Smith said. "In terms of a receiver, we're always looking at players at every position. We're always looking to upgrade the current roster."

But what did the Chargers actually get in left tackle Tra Thomas and wide receiver Josh Reed?

Thomas, who started just three games for the Jaguars last year, is on the downside of his career. In fact the 35-year-old was contemplating retirement before answering the Chargers' SOS when McNeill showed his cards to read "holdout."

"I happy to be in a spot where success is expected," said Thomas, a three-time Pro Bowler back in his salad days with the Eagles. "At this stage of my career, I'd rather be here than with an organization trying to rebuild."

Coach Norv Turner said Thomas is such a pro that he didn't need to attend all the offseason workouts. But, because he is such a pro, he didn't want to miss a session.

"That's a good sign," Turner said. "I didn't think he needed to be here. We can get him ready when we go to camp.

"But he's a very conscientious guy. The thing about really good veteran players, guys who have been there, they don't like not knowing a call. They don't like not knowing what to do."

The questions remains if the Chargers' brass knew what it was doing when giving McNeill and Jackson the stiff-arm on long-term deals. That can be debated, but the team struck fast in trying to re-load and move on.

In Reed, the Chargers acquired someone who has skill sets that don't exactly match what Jackson brings to the offense.

While Jackson shines with his acrobatic catches down field, Reed is more of a possession guy used on the underneath routes and for key third-down plays.

The player who should feel most threatened with Reed coming aboard is Buster Davis, the team's former first-round pick.

Reed, 30, had 27 catches for 291 yards and a touchdown for the Buffalo Bills in 2009. The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder had spent his eight-year NFL career with the Bills, who decided not to retain him after Reed endured the second-least productive season of his career in 2009.

But the Chargers like what they see in Reed.

"That is exciting to me," coach Norv Turner said. "No. 1, for him to be available, and No. 2, for him to want to be here with us; we certainly wanted him."

Reed, who started four games last year, has 311 receptions for 3,575 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career.


--Coach Norv Turner said the Chargers' youth has will serve the team well going forward. "We've got good, young players working, and every opportunity they have like that, they get better," Turner said. "We expose them to an awful lot."

RB Marcus Mason
--RB Marcus Mason is trying to land a roster spot at backup after coming over this offseason from the Redskins. One player he is certain will make the team is Ryan Mathews, the team's top pick out of Fresno State.

"He's fast. He has great vision. He has great potential also," Mason said. "It's different when you're out here with no pads on because you don't get the correct reads. I guess we'll see more in training camp."

--Rookie ILB Donald Butler has finally joined the workouts after his University of Washington class graduated.

"My guys have been down here working hard and it's been killing me that I haven't been able to work with them," Butler said. "Really, it just feels good to finally be out here."

--Just because two-time Pro Bowler Marcus McNeill is not on the Chargers' practice field that doesn't mean he's away from football. He'll host an offensive and defensive line football academy June 30 to July 2 in Atlanta.

--Turner didn't try to hide his optimism after the team's final minicamp workout.

"We've had great offseasons around here the last three years and obviously long before I got here, but this by far is the best I've been around," Turner said. "I would believe that this group has a chance to be the best team I've coached as a head coach."

--TE Antonio Gates is still being bothered by a sore foot.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I learned not to spend a lot of times to think about those things. It is something that is going to take place and everyone has a decision to make. But we would just like to get them here as soon as they can." -- Coach Norv Turner, when asked about the absence of LT Marcus McNeill and WR Vincent Jackson.

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