An odd question to be asking right now, with all of their draft picks signed, but you have to realize that I have zero memory. I have to write these things before I forget to.
Anyways, everyone knows what I'm talking about. A couple of days before Training Camp, when the Chargers had nobody but Brandon Hughes signed, the worrying came out. Complaining about the front office. Stating that the team always did this. They were unwilling to negotiate and it had hurt us in the past. Right?
The example that always stands out in my mind is Quentin Jammer. He was drafted with the #5 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft because the team desperately needed a cornerback. He was big and played physical, so his transition to the NFL was expected to be an easy one. However, because his agent and the team could not come to an agreement until late in training camp, Quentin was far behind the defense and didn't see the field until late in the season.
Now, after the jump we're going to go year-by-year to see if this is really a major problem with the Chargers front office or if it's just a concern the fans have creates themselves.
First, everyone realizes that Kevin Ellison showing up a little bit late was an oddity. Right? The only picks that should feel comfortable enough in their roster position to show up late are first round picks. So we're going to be focusing on them only.
San Diego Chargers Training Camp generally starts around the 1st of August. Rookies and players that were on injured reserve the previous year will show up a week before, to knock some rust off or put some polish on their knowledge of the playbook. However, generally speaking, if a rookie shows up on August 1st or before he'll be just fine. Keep that in mind.
2009: Larry English, signed on 7/31/2009
2008: Antoine Cason, signed on 7/24/2008
2007: Craig "Buster" Davis, signed on 7/23/2007
2006: Antonio Cromartie, signed on 7/25/2006
2005: Shawne Merriman, signed on 8/01/2005
2005: Luis Castillo, signed on 7/26/2005
2004: Philip Rivers, signed on 8/23/2004
2003: Sammy Davis, signed on 7/24/2003
2002: Quentin Jammer, signed on 9/10/2002
2001: LaDainian Tomlinson, signed on 8/22/2001
Okay. I've figured this out. Do the Chargers have a problem signing first round draft picks? No. Not at all. Getting 70% of your draft picks into camp on time is probably close to the league average. The problem the Chargers have, and it's one shared with the rest of the NFL, is getting Top 5 picks into camp on time. If you look at that list again, the only picks that came in late (Rivers, Jammer, Tomlinson) are also the only Top 5 picks made by the team. This is not rare.
Top 5 picks typically ask for a lot of money because the teams that drafted them know they need them in camp. This season, both the Lions need their first round QBs in camp to both save face and get them up to speed to be starters. The Rams need Jason Smith in camp because, with the loss of Orlando Pace, they don't have any other option at LT. It's not like they could manage without him. However, Tyson Jackson still has not signed with the Chiefs and Aaron Curry has yet to sign with the Seahawks. Both players will help make the defense of each team better, but they're also not necessary. The team can survive without them in the meantime, and time lost in camp isn't as important as it would be for a QB. So KC and Seattle will sit back and wait until the player accepts a more reasonable offer.
In the Chargers case, they were smart. They had crippled themselves with the Ryan Leaf contract, one that was too high because they needed him in camp, and were not going to do it again. They knew they weren't about to win the Super Bowl, so why not be patient and get a more reasonable deal done? In Rivers case, it would've been great to get him in on time, but I'm sure the coaches saw Drew Brees lighting up Training Camp and knew that Rivers would sit for at least a season anyways.
In summary, the Chargers do not have a problem signing draft picks. No more of a problem than the rest of the NFL has anyways. So put away that rookie contract slotting idea you have. Unless the Chargers turn into one of the worst teams in the NFL, our rookies will be reporting to camp on time.
Do you have any thoughts about Bolts From The Blue? Any tips you want to send our way? Whenever you have something to say, don't hesitate to e-mail me directly.