Chargers Rumors

Jason Verrett Returns To Full Participation

Good news for Chargers fans (at least for now). Per Dan Woike of the San Diego Union-Tribune, cornerback Jason Verrett was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, the second day of last week’s mandatory minicamp, and he looked like his old self. Woike reports that, over the course of the three-day minicamp, Verrett flashed the ability that earned him a Pro Bowl nod in 2015 and that suggested he would become one of the better corners in the league.

Of course, Verrett has struggled to stay on the field since his Pro Bowl campaign. His 2016 season was limited to four games due to a partially-torn ACL, and although he returned during last year’s training camp, he only played in the season opener before it was revealed that he would need another surgery on the same knee.

Chargers faithful can therefore be forgiven for being skeptical about Verrett’s return to form, but it seems that Verrett is in a better place — both physically and mentally — than he was at this time last year, when he was recovering from his first knee surgery. Verrett said, “Man, last year was tough. I was in a brace the whole time. It was like a little bit mentally and physically [challenging]. But now being out of the brace, not even thinking, being able to cut and get out of my breaks, I’m able to cut and get back to where I was before.”

In some ways, Verrett’s absence has been a blessing for the Bolts, as it has given players like Casey Heyward, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King an opportunity to shine. So if Verrett can, in fact, recapture at least most of his pre-injury form, Los Angeles should be well-stocked at one of the game’s most important positions.

At his best, Verrett could be better than any other CB on the roster. As defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said, “[Verrett’s] skill set, what he has, his speed, his athleticism, his change of direction, it is elite. Just to see him go through the individuals sometimes, you see a guy come back from an injury like that, it takes some time. I don’t see that right now. The way he’s working out, the way he’s practicing, he’s in a really good place right now.”

Verrett, a 2014 first-round selection, also has plenty of financial motivation to stay healthy and productive, as he will play out the 2018 season under the fifth-year option of his rookie deal before being eligible for free agency next year. Although his two knee surgeries will likely dampen his earning power even if he stays healthy this year, a strong showing will make him a highly valuable commodity on the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Kicking Job Sturgis' To Lose?

  • The Chargers likely would’ve been a playoff team last year if not for their shaky kicking situation. As soon as the season ended, the team made aggressive moves to upgrade the position. They brought in former Buccaneers second round pick Roberto Aguayo and former Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis to compete for the job. Despite Aguayo being the more high profile player and his second round pedigree, it’s “Sturgis’ job to lose” according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN (Twitter link).

Chargers Reach Out To Antonio Gates

Could Antonio Gates return to the Chargers? It’s at least a consideration in L.A. as the Bolts have reached out to the tight end’s camp. 

Obviously, Antonio would be a natural fit,” GM Ted Telesco said on 97.3 FM (via Jack Wang of the L.A. Daily News). “He’s someone that we have talked to. We’ve talked to his representatives. Sometimes, it’s not just as easy as saying, ‘Hey, let’s just bring him back. Let’s go.’”

Gates, who will celebrate his 38th birthday on Monday, earned $5MM last season. It’s not clear whether he’s expecting a similar offer this time around. The Chargers, in theory, would have the flexibility to accommodate a similar deal with about $8.8MM in cap room and all of their rookies under contract. Still, the Bolts may be looking for Gates to take less.

In April, the Chargers announced that Gates would not be re-signed. However, the Chargers have a clear need at tight end following Hunter Henry‘s season-ending injury. Virgil Green is the only tight end of note currently on the roster and he is much more of a blocking specialist than a pass-catcher. None of the other tight ends of the roster have ever recorded a regular season catch in the NFL.

No one would expect Gates to reprise his excellence of, say, 2009, but he was still productive as recently as two years ago when he caught 53 passes for 548 yards and seven scores.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers "Counting On" Jason Verrett

  • Chargers  cornerback Jason Verrett has been dominant when on the field since entering the league as a first round pick back in 2014, but has struggled to stay healthy. He’s played in just 25 of a possible 64 games since he was drafted. Despite the lengthy injury history the Chargers picked up his fifth-year option last year, and are apparently “counting on” Verrett to contribute, according to Eric Williams of ESPN. Verrett will earn $8.5MM this season under the fifth-year option, and if he plays well and shows he can stay healthy in 2018, he should be in line for a big payday in free agency.

This Date In Transactions History: Corey Liuget

Three years ago today, the Chargers agreed to a deal that they probably grew to regret. Fortunately for the organization, they managed to remedy the financial predicament during this past offseason.

Defensive tackle Corey Liuget had been selected by the Chargers in the first round of the 2011 draft, and he proceeded to miss only a single regular season game during his first four years in the NFL. The Illinois product received several accolades during this run, including the David Griggs Memorial Award, which is awarded to team’s defensive player of the year. Coming off a 2014 season that saw him compile 57 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles, Liuget ended up signing a five-year, $58.5MM extension ($30MM guaranteed) with the organization that would kick in at the start of the 2016 campaign.

While the 2015 season didn’t include the extension money, it was the first sign of trouble for Liuget. The defensive lineman was relatively productive in 11 games, collecting 34 tackles and three sacks. However, he ended up landing on the injured reserve after 11 games, ending his season early. He failed to put up big numbers in 2016 (29 tackles, no sacks), and he was limited to only 12 games last year. To make matters worse, Liuget was slapped with a four-game suspension to start the upcoming campaign.

The Chargers were apparently considering a way out of the contract, as they ultimately reworked the lineman’s deal this past offseason. Liuget was set to earn $6MM in 2018 (sacrificing an additional $2MM due to suspension), but his base salary was dropped to less than $1MM.

Surely, the Chargers would have preferred if the defensive lineman had ended up over-performing (or even living up to) his lucrative contract. Fortunately for the organization, they were able to wiggle their way out of a potential financial issue for the upcoming season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers GM Talks Henry, Gates, Draft

Following an eventful offseason that saw the Chargers suffer a major injury, draft seven rookies, and sign a handful of free agents, general manager Tom Telesco took to Chargers.com to answer fans’ questions. The executive touched on a number of subjects, including his team’s draft strategy and the Chargers’ plans at tight end.

The entire Q&A is worth checking out, but we’ve listed some of the notable soundbites below:

On tight end Hunter Henry‘s recovery from a torn ACL:

“Hunter had surgery yesterday and is home resting and rehabbing already. Everything went well. He will attack his rehab with the same enthusiasm as he plays the game. He will be back stronger and better than ever.”

On a potential reunion with veteran tight end Antonio Gates:

“Would be a natural fit, right? I saw that Philip [Rivers] voted for it. When it comes to roster moves, we are not a democracy. But we are not a dictatorship either. His vote was noted and accounted for. Antonio’s accomplishments and contributions to this organization are immeasurable. We will see what the future holds. I don’t have an update at this time.”

On why the team hasn’t drafted “skilled offensive lineman”:

“It’s a priority every year. We have drafted OL in the top 3 rounds 3x in the last couple years, mostly recently with Forrest Lamp in the 2nd and Dan Feeney in the 3rd. Both are skilled. Both are tough. And both have bright futures.”

On the Chargers’ weaknesses at run defense:

“Our run defense needs to improve. It comes from all 11 players on defense, not just the front 7. To give some perspective though, the top 5 teams in avg rushing yards allowed per game were: Browns, Broncos, Cards, Titans, and Eagles. Combined record 33-42 going into week 17. Worst 5 teams were: Chargers, Patriots, Rams, Jags, and Steelers. Combined record 53-22. We never want to be in the bottom 5 in anything, and improvement is needed. But we have to be balanced and smart.”

On the oddest contract clause he’s seen throughout his career.

“It wasn’t with the Chargers, but we once had an incentive clause to pay a player a certain amount of $ for 10 or more blocked punts. The player was an offensive lineman.”

His perception of the team following the draft and free agency:

“We have some talent on this team this year. But the talent level in the NFL is not much different from the top team to the 32nd team. Every team has talent. We have a great group of coaches, led by Anthony Lynn, who will have an excellent game plan for our players. But the NFL is a very competitive league and there are 31 other great coaching staffs. The key is to have the talent buy in to the coaching staff’s game plan. We control that, nobody else does. And that is what the off-season and training camp is all about. I love what I have seen thus far and I am excited for the future.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Sign Derwin James

The Chargers have wrapped up their entire draft class. On Friday, the Chargers inked first-round safetyDerwin James (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). 

Per the terms of his slot as the 17th overall pick, James will earn $12.39MM over the course of his four-year deal. The pact includes a $7.1MM signing bonus as well a fifth-year team option, since James was a first-round choice.

James made a name for himself immediately at Florida State when he tallied 91 total tackles and 4.5 sacks as a true freshman. A knee injury cost him the bulk of his sophomore year, but he returned last year and put up 84 tackles, two interceptions, eleven passes defended, and a sack. Early on in the draft process, some anticipated that James would go in the top ten. At No. 17, the Chargers may have gotten a steal.

James projects to start at free safety for the Chargers, joining Jahleel Addae in the middle of the secondary. They’ll be flanked by cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Casey Heyward.

Using PFR’s draft pick signing tracker, here’s the full rundown of the Chargers’ 2018 draft class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Sign TE Austin Roberts

The Chargers have signed tight end Austin Roberts, according to a team announcement. Roberts will compete for a spot on the roster following the loss of starting tight end Hunter Henry

Roberts, an undrafted free agent out of UCLA, is likely not viewed as a one-for-one replacement for the injured Henry. However, it is interesting that the team’s first tight end move was not a reunion with accomplished veteran Antonio Gates.

Well, shoot, I’d always be excited if he walked back in the door obviously,” quarterback Philip Rivers said this week when asked about the idea of Gates returning to the Chargers. “That’s something that [GM] Tom [Telesco] and [owner] John [Spanos]and coach [Anthony Lynn] and those guys I’m sure will discuss and see about bringing anybody in for that matter, but certainly [Gates’ return] would get my vote.”

Rivers isn’t the only one who thinks signing Gates would be a logical move. In a recent poll, more than three-quarters of PFR readers said the Bolts should reunite with Gates.

Roberts, a 6’2″, 230-pound tight end, had 19 receptions for 220 yards and two scores last year for the Bruins. He appeared in 24 total games across three seasons at UCLA.

To make room on the roster for Roberts, the Bolts released long snapper Anthony Kukwa.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rivers Wants Chargers To Re-Sign Gates

Before the dust had even settled after Hunter Henry‘s season-ending ACL tear, rumors began to swirl about the Chargers potentially bringing back Antonio Gates. It had just recently been reported that the Chargers were moving on from Gates after his historic 15-year run with the team.

A wrench was possibly thrown into those plans when Henry went down with a devastating non-contact injury during OTAs. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco refused to rule out re-signing Gates when asked about it last week. Now, Gates has at least one public supporter in his longtime quarterback Philip Rivers.

Poll: Which AFC West Team Had The Best Offseason?

Of all the divisions in the NFL, perhaps none had a busier offseason than the AFC West. The Chargers were the only team in the division that didn’t change their head coach or starting quarterback. Each team had their own clear strategy for navigating the spring, but only one will emerge as the top dog in the division next season. 

The Raiders kicked off a new era in January when they signed Jon Gruden to a ten-year deal to be their new head coach. Over the last few months, Gruden has totally remade the team to fit his vision of a squad with lots of veteran leaders, while getting rid of some players whose personalities he didn’t like such as Michael Crabtree and Marquette King. They’ve signed a slew of aging veterans like Doug Martin, Jordy Nelson, and Leon Hall. They added offensive tackle Kolton Miller with their first-round pick to help bolster their offensive line and keep Derek Carr upright. The 2018 season will be the team’s first without Sebastian Janikowski as their kicker since 1999, as the team let the longtime fan favorite walk in free-agency. This Raiders team will be one of the oldest in recent league history, but with some top-line talent in Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack, along with a very experienced locker room, they have the potential to make some noise in the AFC.

The Chargers had by far the quietest offseason of all the AFC West teams. They opted to mostly stand pat in free agency, although they did sign Mike Pouncey after he was cut by the Dolphins. The Chargers are mostly counting on the talent from last year’s team being able to get them over the hump this year. They got what many considered to be the steal of the draft when Florida State safety Derwin James fell to them at the 17th pick in the first-round. They’ve sought to address the kicking game, the team’s biggest weakness in 2017, by bringing in Caleb Sturgis and former second-round pick Roberto Aguayo to compete. On paper, the Chargers are one of the most talented teams in the league. A couple of missed field goals at the end of games was the only thing stopping them from being a playoff team last year. They’ve been a popular media pick so far to win the AFC West in 2018, and could make a deep playoff run if they can put it all together.

The Chiefs kicked off the NFL offseason by making a blockbuster trade with the Redskins, shipping out quarterback Alex Smith and officially starting the Patrick Mahomes era in Kansas City. The team had no first-round pick, but did make a splash in free agency. They signed Sammy Watkins to a three-year deal to pair with Tyreek Hill on the outside. They lost offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who took a head coaching job with the Bears. They also traded All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Rams, in part due to his clashes with the coaching staff. It was a tumultuous offseason for the Chiefs as they look to restart rather than rebuild. Mahomes showed flashes of brilliance during his lone regular season start last year, but it will be hard to win in a tough division with a quarterback making his first meaningful starts. Still, if any coach could pull it off, it’s probably Andy Reid.

The Broncos are coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Following their Super Bowl win in 2015, they went 9-7 in 2016 only for the wheels to come off this past year. They ended up starting three different quarterbacks, and none of Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler were effective. Siemian and Osweiler are gone now, and Lynch will be fighting for a roster spot this summer. The team brought in Case Keenum to be their new starting quarterback, and added defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fifth overall pick. They traded Aqib Talib, a former staple of their legendary “No Fly Zone” to the Rams, and traded for former second-round safety Su’a Cravens. While the Broncos didn’t do anything crazy to revamp their roster other than bringing in Keenum, things tend to change quickly in the NFL, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Broncos rebound fast from their dismal 5-11 season.

Which team do you think had the best offseason in the AFC West? Vote in PFR’s poll below and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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