Roster Moves the Chargers Need to Make this Offseason

Derek Cox was supposed to be the "prize" of the Chargers offseason. The signing has not panned out. What will they do with him?

How about a round of applause for the 2013 San Diego Chargers? They went from 5-7 with no hopes of making the playoffs to 9-7, with one playoff victory on the road. They beat the odds. They played great as a team down the stretch. With a rookie head coach, Mike McCoy, and a rookie General Manager, Tom Telesco, the Chargers were thought to be in rebuilding mode. Literally nothing was expected from them. Philip Rivers was supposed to be done. Ryan Mathews was a bust. Antonio Gates was too old. The offensive line was supposed to be the weak link. Well, McCoy made some great hires to his staff in Ken Whisenhunt and Joe D'Alessandris. They turned a "weak" offense into a juggernaut. John Pagano had a rocky start to his season defensively, but when it mattered most, the defense played as well as any. This team sustained many injuries throughout the offseason and training camp, and even into the regular season. But through the injuries, the team pulled together and fought. The Chargers showed this season that they are serious contenders in the near future, and they will be for a long time.

Not EVERYTHING went well for the Chargers this season. There are a few players that did not play up to their potential or their contracts. Derek Cox was supposed to be a difference maker on the defensive side of the ball. He looked weak from the start. He got beaten consistently, and tackled poorly. He was benched for good about halfway through the season. I don't know about you, but I do not want a guy I am paying over $20 million to be sitting on the bench. Something has to be done about him. There are other players that need to go and there is new blood needed in the locker room for the Chargers to continue to build a contending franchise.

Players that are Safe:
-Philip Rivers: He had the best season of his career. Rivers should run away with the Comeback Player of the Year award. He IS the franchise quarterback. Completed an NFL best 70 percent of his passes. Posted a 105.5 passer rating, 32 touchdown passes, and nearly 4,500 yards.
Running Back:
-Ryan Mathews: Had the best season of his career as well. Always seemed to get positive yardage. He did not miss a single game, regular OR postseason. Also cut down on the turnovers. The bell-cow back in San Diego for years to come. Ran for over 1,200 yards on the season.
-Danny Woodhead: This guy is the all-purpose threat. Finished second in the NFL in receptions by a running back. Scored a career high in total touchdowns, with 8.
Wide Receiver:
-Keenan Allen: The guy is on the verge of super-stardom. Set franchise record for receptions (71), and yards (1,046). Also posted 8 touchdowns while averaging over 14 yards per reception. A favorite to win the Pepsi Next Rookie of the Year award. Has 5 100-yard games. Named to the Pro Football Writers of America ALL-Rookie team. Won Pepsi Next Rookie of the Week 4 times this season.
-Malcom Floyd: He is a huge target for Philip Rivers. He was playing very well until he got hurt again. Putting him opposite Keenan Allen could be devastating for defenses.
-Eddie Royal: Set a career high in touchdowns, with 8. Was a security blanket for Philip Rivers in the slot. Cam up with a couple of huge catches in the playoffs to help turn momentum.
-Vincent Brown: Showed some promise, but didn't play as well as expected. He did make some crucial catches for the Chargers.
Tight End:
-Antonio Gates: Showed he still has plenty left. Led the team in receptions with 77. Still is a nightmare for defenses. Demands double coverage in the red zone. Historically Philip Rivers greatest target. All-Time great at his position.
-Ladarius Green: One of the fastest and biggest players on the team. Developed a lot this past season. He averaged in insane 22 yards per reception. Has loads of talent. Will only get better.
-D.J. Fluker: played the best football of any rookie offensive lineman this season. Pounded in the run game and protected Rivers far better than expected. Started 5 straight games at left tackle, a position he hasn't played since high school. Won Pepsi Next Rookie of the Week in Week 7, for dominating at left tackle against the Jaguars. Will be a cornerstone of the franchise for a decade. Brings passion not only to the offensive line, but for the whole team.
-King Dunlap: Played far better than expectations. Missed some games through the season with a concussion. Is an average starter, but will be a well above-average backup, should Tom Telesco bring in a new tackle.
-Nick Hardwick: Is the leader of the offensive line. Makes all the right calls. Has always been there for Philip Rivers. He has a few solid years left in the tank at least.
-Rich Ohrnberger: Came in and played well upon getting his number called in the Cincinnati playoff win. Showed he is a valued backup, as the offense did not miss a beat.
-Chad Rinehart: Started 10 games for the Chargers, and played in 11 total. Keeps some continuity along the line.
-Johnnie Troutman: Took some forward steps this season. Needs to work on his penalties. Will continue to progress with experience.
Defensive End:
-Corey Liuget: Was a disruptive force for the defense. Led team with 5.5 sacks. Can generate pressure constantly. Liuget was a Pro Bowl snub a year ago. One of the defenses best overall players, and he has a lot more potential and promise.
-Kendall Reyes: Had a solid season. Finished with 5 sacks on the season. Makes plays. Will continue to improve with more experience. Promising young player as well.
Defensive Tackle:
-Cam Thomas: Struggled at times during the season, but down the stretch played well enough to keep his job. Average starter, but could be an above-average backup, if a new defensive tackle is brought in by Telesco.
Outside Linebacker:
-Melvin Ingram: Is a stud. He injected energy and passion back into the defensive unit upon his swift return from ACL surgery. Made game changing plays. Is super talented. Will be a cornerstone of the defense for years.
- Jarret Johnson: Does a little bit of everything well. Is a solid player. One of the leaders of the entire team. One of the best tacklers on the team.
-Dwight Freeney: Was getting consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. He may not have recorded many sacks, but his pressures and QB hurries impacted plays. Will get a chance to play solely as a situational pass rusher opposite Ingram, which will possibly be a deadly combination. Doesn't take up too much cap space, and is an ALL-time great at his position.
-Thomas Keiser: He is young, but he was able to get solid pressure on the quarterback, and he was also able to get a rare interception thrown by Peyton Manning. Has promise.
Inside Linebacker:
-Donald Butler: Finished second on the team in tackles despite missing multiple games. Makes big plays. Is a sure tackler. Butler is one of the most promising players on the Chargers roster. He is the signal-caller for the defense. A cornerstone player.
-Manti Te'o: His rookie season started off rough, with him missing multiple games, the first 3 games of the season. He continually improved throughout the season, and for a linebacker with "questionable" athletic ability, Te'o led the team in tackles for a loss. Will only get better, and possibly form half of one of the top middle linebacker duos in the league.
-Shareece Wright: He didn't have a great season by any stretch of the imagination, but made an impact on some games, especially the Cincy game. He will get another chance to start, unless Tom Telesco totally revamps the secondary, which is an option.
-Johnny Patrick: Played okay when called upon. He didn't get beat too often. Will get a chance to try to play a full season.
-Steve Williams: He missed his entire rookie season due to injury. He possesses great speed, and could be the answer to the Chargers weak kick return game.
-Eric Weddle: This is a gimme. He led the team in tackles. He made the Pro Bowl again. He made a difference in many games this year. His play didn't always look so good, but he was forced into awkward positions due to an inexperienced secondary. A franchise player, and a superstar in the NFL. One of, if not the BEST free safety in the NFL.
-Marcus Gilchrist: Played very well this season. Is valuable and versatile, being able to move into the slot and play at a solid level. Tied for the team lead in interceptions with 2, but led the team in return yards. Will only get better in his second season at safety in San Diego.
-Jahleel Addae: Played phenomenal football for the Bolts. He brought energy to the defense, and made some big plays, such as his forced fumble on Julius Thomas in Denver on Sunday. Considering he was an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan, I think it is safe to say he will be a Charger in 2014.
-Darrell Stuckey: Is a special teams ace. Is a solid tackler in return coverage and does a nice job of keeping the ball from entering the end zone on punts. He will continue to make his money on special teams.
Special Teams:
-Mike Scifres: He is a constant for this team. He rarely has a touchback, and has a cannon leg. Hopefully he'll be fine after getting hurt last week.
-Nick Novak: Was a phenom with his kicking game. Made tons of big kicks for the Chargers. He helped fans forget the name Nate Kaeding really fast.
-Mike Windt: Is the long snapper and will be back because yeah. He's the long snapper.

Players that are on the Bubble:
-Charlie Whitehurst: He isn't all that great. Hasn't officially thrown a regular season pass as a Charger. He was a favorite of the old regime, and a better backup could and should be brought in by any means.
-Brad Sorensen: I have nothing against the guy. He played well in the preseason. But he's a project player, and is expendable. If he has a good preseason next year, he could be used in trade.
Running Back:
-Ronnie Brown: He is a role model for the other backs. He did have that huge run to seal the playoff win, but his age is becoming a factor now. The team is getting younger and they may just bring in another big back, that's just younger.
-Le'Ron McClain: He blocks well sometimes, but really doesn't impact the game in any way. He has the occasional first down carry, but not much else. A more talented fullback may be brought in for cheaper.
Wide Receiver:
-Danario Alexander: He has a lot of talent, but he can not stay healthy at all. His knees are MAJOR concerns and he could be brought back if he takes minimal pay. He can make all the plays in the world, he just has to stay healthy.
Tight End:
-John Phillips: He is a good blocker, and a decent pass catcher. A roster spot can't be guaranteed for him considering he is the number 3 tight end. He may very well be brought back, but if a better option is available, Tom Telesco may pounce on it.
-Mike Harris: He showed some improvement when he got playing time. He isn't the best pass protector, and I'm expecting Telesco to bring in a tackle via Draft in May, so he could be on his way out the door.
-Jeromey Clary: He played a lot better at his new position, but the Chargers will be given every opportunity to upgrade the position. He could be a quality backup.
Defensive End:
-Lawrence Guy: Guy made some impacting plays when he was brought in. He blocked a kick, and tipped an RG III pass that was caught in the end zone for a touchdown. He is a good reserve player.
-Sean Lissemore: He was brought in when injuries started happening on defense. Once the other players get healthy, he is going to have to fight for his job. Played decent enough.
Defensive Tackle:
-Kwame Geathers: He had his moments during his rookie year, but didn't play great. I'm expecting Tom Telesco to bring in a possible starter at this position, and the spot for him may just not be there when roster cuts roll around. He has an outside shot, though.
Middle Linebacker:
-Jonas Mouton: He was a 2nd round pick, and he has had some really bad luck with injuries. He has talent, so he may get one last chance to prove himself.
-Bront Bird: He isn't a great player by any means, but he could be a valuable reserve.
Outside Linebacker:
-Reggie Walker: He played pretty well for the Chargers, but with Melvin Ingram healthy, Jarret Johnson and Thomas Keiser also practically guaranteed roster spots, and Dwight Freeney returning next year, he may be a victim of too little roster space. He is a solid player.
-Larry English: I was going to put him in the "Cut" section, but he honestly played decent football when he was healthy. He may not have been a pass rushing phenom like he was expected to be coming out of Northern Illinois, but he does a little bit of everything. I hope he doesn't make the cut, and I doubt he will with all the talent there, but you never know.
-Richard Marshall: He played adequately, and was an improvement over the failure Derek Cox, but the secondary WILL be addressed through Free Agency and/or the Draft.
-Brandon Taylor: He hasn't really developed, and the Chargers are looking pretty strong at safety at the moment. He is clearly expendable, but he was a 3rd round pick, so he may get some more time to develop.

Players who will not return:
Wide Receiver:
-Seyi Ajirotutu: He caught the game-winner in Kansas City, yeah, but this position is one of the deepest on the entire roster. If everyone were healthy, he'd be the number 6 receiver. No shot unless there is injury, unless they keep him for his special teams play.
-Lavelle Hawkins: He was brought in to help in the return game, but did no such thing upon arrival. He's gone.
-Steve Schilling: More talent is going to be brought in on the line by some means. Schilling is the weakest link. He will most likely not be a Charger for much longer.
Defensive Tackle:
-Byron Jearideau: With there being as many defensive tackles as there are on the roster, and with the likelihood of there being another brought in, things should look bleak in the Jearideau camp.
Middle Linebacker:
-Andrew Gachkar: He isn't anywhere near the top of the depth chart, and he's average on special teams. I think he played his last snap as a Charger.
-Crezdon Butler: We remember him for costing us the Titans game early in the season. He redeemed himself against Dallas, but has done nothing since. There is no reason to have him return to this organization.
-Marcus Cromartie: He did absolutely nothing as a Charger. And with this position being one of high priority to improve on, it is almost a lock to have him not make the team.

Either Take a Pay Cut or be Cut:
-Derek Cox: He was supposed to be the prize signing of Tom Telesco's rookie season as GM. He did not pan out at all. He lost all of his confidence. He was a poor tackler. He gave too large of cushions to players due to his lack of confidence and fear of getting beat deep. He ultimately got benched in favor of Richard Marshall, which says it all. At one point he didn't even play in games. He did not look comfortable at all. If he takes a major pay cut, I can see him getting another shot, but he is definitely not worth the $20 million+ deal he was signed to last offseason. If he refuses to take the pay cut, I think the plug will be pulled on him.

Priority Re-Signs:
1. Donald Butler: This guy, like I said, is the real deal. This should be the very first move Tom Telesco makes this offseason. He needs to sign Butler long-term. He is a great player, just look at his play this postseason. He forced a key Giovanni Bernard fumble just before half time to keep the Bengals from possibly putting up another touchdown. Then last week, he had a sensational interception of Peyton Manning in which he tip-toed in the back of the end zone to keep the Broncos from making it a 3 possession game before the half. He is easily priority number one. He is worth a big-money deal, and hopefully he can get what he deserves without crippling the team by taking up too much cap space.
2. Rich Ohrnberger: His play when he was called upon in Cincinnati speaks for itself. He is a quality reserve and he will provide depth in one of the positions this team definitely needs depth in.
3. Darrell Stuckey: He replaced Kassim Osgood as this teams special teams wizard. Every great team needs a superb specialist, and Stuckey is that guy for the Chargers. He won't get big bucks but he should return if they choose to bring him back.
4. Reggie Walker: IF they decide to bring Walker back, he should be kinda high on their list of priorities. He makes plays all over the field.
5. Chad Rinehart: He will provide continuity along the line, and he played good football all year.
6. Ronnie Brown: He provides leadership and he proved he has at least a little left in the tank. He may or may not be brought back, depending on what other players San Diego might target to upgrade the position.

Free agents to target:
I know Tom Telesco prefers building through the draft, but the following players should at least draw interest from him. Most of these players will likely be heading back to the same place, but in case they don't re-sign, this is the list.
Running Back:
1. Maurice Jones-Drew: Yes, he has had injury concerns the past 2 years, but he is a great back. He can do it all. He is explosive, he has great speed, and he has tons of power. The fact that he has had injuries may make his price tag cheaper. If Ronnie Brown is not brought back, and if MJD is not too expensive, he should get a strong look from the Chargers. He, paired with Ryan Mathews, could cement San Diego's backfield as one of the best in the league. Jones-Drew and Mathews would compliment each other well. This may be wishful thinking though. It sounds like he may be staying in Jacksonville right now.
2. Ben Tate: Yes, he has injury issues too, but I think when he is healthy he could be an even better back than Arian Foster. He could be a top-10 back in the right system. Again, in this situation, Ronnie Brown probably wouldn't return if Tate was signed.
Wide Receiver:
1. Hakeem Nicks: This is unlikely, as he's probably going to be demanding a ton of money. But if by some odd chance he doesn't he should get some consideration by the Chargers. Sure, San Diego doesn't NEED another wideout. But what if they DID sign him? He and Keenan Allen split out wide, with Eddie Royal in the slot, Antonio Gates also playing somewhere split out, with Danny Woodhead being a dual threat? Defenses would throw fits weekly. The odds are this won't happen, but he'd be an instant help to the team.
2. Anquan Boldin: I see this as a serious possibility. San Fransisco has loads of talent at the position, and he won't demand a lot of money. With how Boldin plays, he'd be a perfect fit in this offense. The fact that he is practically always open would give Philip Rivers another reliable target. He will probably only sign with a contender, so San Diego's quick turnaround may help them land a stud wide receiver to start opposite Allen if Floyd either doesn't come back or gets hurt.
3. Jacoby Jones: The only reason I even mention Jones is his ability in the return game. A strong return game could have helped the Chargers win another game or two this season, including the loss to Denver last week.
4. Ted Ginn: I mention him for the same reason I mention Jones. San Diego desperately needs a solid returner.
Defensive Tackle:
1. B.J. Raji: Raji is a big man that can plug up the middle of the field. He can consistently demand a double-team, which opens things up for the talented pass rushers. He'd be a solid pickup if he doesn't return to Green Bay.

2014 NFL Mock Draft Picks:
Round 1:
-Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: Gilbert has size at 6' 200 lbs, and is supremely talented. He has great acceleration, speed, and vision, and he has solid hands for a cornerback. His main weakness is his technique, which he can easily be coached up on. San Diego desperately, desperately needs a game-changing corner, especially given the competitive division they're in. He'll be a lock down corner at the next level.
(alternate pick: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama)
Round 2:
-Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor: The Chargers offensive line played a lot better than expected this season. The area of the line the needs the most improvement is guard. Richardson is widely considered the best prospect at guard. What better way to improve your offense and further improve Philip Rivers' play than to add another top-tier lineman to the mix? The Baylor product would really beef up the left side of the line, and open even more holes for the Chargers backs.
(alternate pick: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU)
Round 3:
-Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee: The Chargers need a massive, dominant talent to play the spot vacated by Jamal Williams a few years back. McCullers often draw double-teams, and even gets triple-teamed on occasion. Adding a presence like that to go along with Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes would give the Chargers a very stout defensive front. He is massive at 6'6" tall and a whopping 351 pounds.
(alternate pick: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State)
Round 4:
-Morgan Breslin, OLB, USC: Dwight Freeney doesn't have much time left. Neither does Jarret Johnson. Another young, talented pass rusher is needed. Breslin has been injured this past season, but he is really talented. He led the Trojans in tackles for a loss (19.5) and sacks (13.5) in 2012. He'll have no pressure to perform right away his rookie year, as he'd be a 4th round pick, and he'd be learning under Dwight Freeney, Melvin Ingram, and Jarret Johnson. If he can turn his potential into production, he could be the steal of the Draft.
(alternate pick: Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama)
Round 5:
-Deion Belue, CB, Alabama: Again, San Diego needs as much secondary help as possible. Belue is a solid tackler, something that defense needs, and is very physical for a corner. He has average size for the position, but he can still make an impact like he did for the Crimson Tide.
(alternate pick: Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss)
Round 6:
-De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR/KR, Oregon: You can never have too many weapons. Thomas is much like Danny Woodhead, but he has more speed. The Bolts need a major boost in the return game and this guy can flat out fly. He'd be a huge upgrade on special teams. He can also contribute on offense, in the slot, or in the backfield. He is a versatile weapon, and he could contribute right away.
(alternate pick: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia)
Round 7:
(insert offensive tackle of choice)

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