It's safe to say the first year as General Manager of the San Diego Chargers was a success for Tom Telesco. He did a great job of bringing in unique talents on and off the field. He brought in three different minds that helped "fix" his quarterback. He plucked some cast-offs from other teams in free agency, and they came in and did a great job. Lastly, he chose to draft based on production, and that worked out very well.
Did every transaction work out? Of course not, that's not how the league works. I would say the majority of the moves he made came in and made an instant impact, and that's as much as you can ask for. It'll get tougher in season 2 for Telesco, as he has to continue to plug holes on both sides of the ball, and continue to elevate the talent on the team.
I've made a "Top 10" to-do list is for Telesco this offseason. Here are the first 5:
10: Which Veteran Do You Cut?
Telesco will be tasked with what will be a difficult decision. Bringing back veteran fan favorites or letting them go to plug in young talent. Let's start with the elephant in the room that no one is mentioning: Antonio Gates. The Hall of Fame TE is set to turn 34, and is is owed $5 million in base salary for '14. Though some of this was due to being double-teamed, Gates topped 70 yards just 3 times in 18 games this season.
Other veterans that Telesco will need to decide whether to cut or restructure with cap numbers that aren't very favorable include, Eddie Royal, Le'Ron McClain, Jeromey Clary, Jarrett Johnson, and Dwight Freeney.
9. Develop Your Own Left Tackle
King Dunlap played better than I could ever have dreamed this year. He did, however, miss 5 games. I think it's important to bring in a Left Tackle through the draft, and develop a guy that fits the system. Dunlap is only 28, but has an injury history to the point where it's almost expected that he's going to miss a few games each season. I'm not forgetting about Mike Harris, I just believe he's best suited as a backup, swing tackle.
8. Get Mathews Some Help
Remember that Mike McCoy spent 9 years with the Panthers, where they would regularly draft a RB, run him into the ground, let him walk, and draft another one. Rinse. Repeat. Danny Woodhead was a great pick-up, but that's not who you want to have closing out games. With Ronnie Brown an unrestricted free agent, Telesco will have to either draft a RB or bring in a free agent. It's shaping up to be a deep running back draft, and I think they'll be able to steal a RB in the later rounds that will be very productive. No matter what route he chooses, Telesco will need to get Mathews some help.
7. Re-signing Your Important Players
Donald Butler. Chad Rinehart. Darrell Stuckey. Three huge contributors to the 2013 Chargers. Is Butler a flash in the pan type talent that looks better on a bad defense (not to mention has problems staying on the field)? I think his price went down quite a bit after a poor season. I do think he improved once he switched positions, but I'm not convinced he's more than a replacement level player.
Rinehart is a very good player in his own right, but has a history of injuries that continued this year. Do you risk counting on that moving forward? I'd bring him back, because bringing in two new starting guards for the second year in a row just isn't ideal.
Stuckey is one of my favorite players on the team, and I'm glad he got a shot to play. Arguably one of the best special team players in the league, I think it's a no brainer to bring him back.
6. Get More Athletic on Both Sides of The Ball
As I mentioned above, the offense can use more athletes. Green, Allen, Woodhead, and that's about it. They could certainly use 2 or 3 more. On the other side of the ball, they could use quite a bit. That's why I always felt like the Dime defense that included Jahleel Addae and Darrell Stuckey was the best lineup, because it got the most athletes on the field. The team speed is below average, and the lack of athleticism showed up at the worst of times. This needs to be improved over the off-season.
Come back a little later today to see my Top 5 list of things Tom Telesco needs to do to improve the Chargers this offseason.