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A Look Back Part 2013: Reviewing Each Year of Tom Telesco’s Reign

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Aaron takes an in-depth look back at 2013 free agency.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

In anticipation for the upcoming frenzy that is Free Agency in the NFL, I thought it would be a good time to check out Tom Telesco’s history as General Manager of the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. Hired in January of 2013, Tom Telesco had the immediate responsibility of overhauling the roster to create a team that could make the playoffs again. I will give a brief description for each player, and grade each move made by Tom Telesco.

Chargers departed via free agency:

Antonio Garay (DT) - Once a popular player, and the infamous owner of the Hello Kitty Smart Car, Garay was released by the Chargers after only appearing in half the games in 2012. He signed with the New York Jets but was released in August of 2013 after not playing a snap for them. Grade: A

Takeo Spikes (MLB) - In probably one of the most painful ejections I’ve ever seen, Takeo Spikes got tangled up with a no-name running back on the Raiders and was ejected. It ended up being the last game of his NFL career, as he went unsigned in 2013 and retired. He ended his 15 seasons with 1,080 tackles. Seeing him go was painful, but he wasn’t of use to the Chargers anymore. Grade: A

Randy McMichael (TE) - Mostly known for his blocking skills, Randy McMichael had 35 receptions for 543 yards and 2 TDs over 3 seasons with the Chargers. Tom Telesco decided to cut the 34-year-old TE after the season, and he never signed with another team. Grade: A

Atari Bigby (S) - After starting as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Packers, the Safety from Central Florida played 8 seasons in the NFL, including one with the Chargers. He started 11 games for the Chargers before ending his career on IR for a groin injury. He was released before the second year of his $2.5 million dollar contract. In case you forgot, his last snaps happened earlier in the game where Ray Rice converted a 4th and 29. How’s that for a blast from the past? Grade: A

Antoine Cason (CB) - After being selected in the first round, with the 27th pick, the CB played in 80 games for the Chargers over 5 seasons, recording 12 interceptions, 245 tackles, and 55 passes defensed. Still playing at a starting-caliber level, despite one game where Plaxico Burres caught 3 TDs against him, his last play as a Charger was an interception of Carson Palmer (of the Raiders), which ended the Raiders hope of making the playoffs. He signed a one-year, 2 million dollar contract with the Cardinals, where he played in all 16 games, making only 14 tackles. He then signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers, where he started 11 games, making 58 tackles and 2 interceptions. He was benched after a string of bad games and was waived after 12 games that season. He then signed with the Ravens, and played the final two regular season games of 2014, without recording a stat. He hasn’t played since 2014, after a surgery on his right foot. Grade: B (they could have got another season or two starting out of him)

Louis Vasquez (OG/RT) - Selected in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft, Louis Vasquez played at RT and RG over 4 seasons with the Chargers, grading as a top 13 guard in 2012. From what I can gather, the Chargers were willing to pay up, even if it meant the destruction of other positions. The Chargers seemingly didn’t put an offer on the table, at which point he decided to test the free agent market, signing a 4 year, $23.5 million dollar contract. Grade: F- (Chargers lost out on a pro-bowl caliber Guard due to not even offering a contract even though they viewed him as a must-sign).

Antwan Barnes (OLB) - After spending his first 4 years with the Ravens and Eagles, the Chargers signed Barnes to a one-year contract. As a mainly pass rush specialist, he notched 4.5 sacks in 11 games and was re-signed to a two-year contract. During that time, he had one year with 11 sacks, where he started 5 games, but the next season he played in only 11 games, with only 6 tackles and 3 sacks. He was placed on injured reserve and wasn’t re-signed. He signed a two-year contract with the Jets, only playing in 10 games over two seasons with two sacks. His injury with the Chargers seemingly derailed his career. Grade: A-

Aubrayo Franklin (NT) - Truly a stop gap at NT, he started 9 games after having played 9 seasons with the Ravens, 49ers, and Saints. He didn’t play incredibly well and wasn’t re-signed. He played one more season with the Colts, starting 15 games, but never played again after that season. Grade: B

Jared Gaither (LT) - After being waived by the Chiefs, Gaither was claimed by the Chargers, and signed a 4-year contract with $13.5 million guaranteed, and $24.5 million total after ending his first season as the number one pass blocker per Pro Football Focus. At that point, he was plagued with back spasms and played all of 4 more games for the Chargers. He robbed the Chargers blind for $15 million dollars (including $6 million in dead money) for only 4 games on that contract. This was a huge blunder by A.J. Smith, and the only thing Telesco could do was release him. Grade: A+

Vaughn Martin (DT) - Selected by the Chargers in the 4th round of the 2009 draft to be the successor of Jamal Williams, but was only good in one season, and wasn’t re-signed. The Dolphins signed him that offseason, he played in 3 games and was promptly released: Grade: A

Chargers Re-signed:

Mike Windt (LS) - Windt took over for long snapping duties for David Binn, a 17-year long snapper for the Chargers, and hasn’t looked back. He’s one of the most reliable long snappers in the league and has played in all but 6 games since he was signed in 2010. He has made about $4.7 million over his career for a handful of plays a game. Grade: A

Nick Novak (K) - Novak was originally signed to provide competition with Nate Kaeding. Ultimately losing that battle twice, even after setting two team record, he finally beat out Nate Kaeding for the starting job in 2012. He was released in favor of Josh Lambo due to cost cutting measures by Tom Telesco, after scoring 459 points, which is 7th all time on the Chargers’ list. He signed with the Texans and has converted on 53/62 kicks in his two years there. He is currently the 22nd highest ranking kicker in NFL history with a percentage of 82.8. In comparison, Josh Lambo has converted on 52/64 kicks. The Chargers ended up saving about half a million a year on a younger, slightly less good kicker. Grade: B-

Richard Goodman (WR) - He had 1 reception for 25 yards in 3 years. He also fumbled on that play. He also had a kick returned for a TD in 2011. He was released before the season started. Grade: D-

Ronnie Brown (HB) - Once the king of the wildcat in the NFL with the Dolphins and the Eagles, he signed with the Chargers as a 30-year-old, washed up running back. After two seasons with the Chargers, where he gained 356 yards and a TD on 91 attempts (3.91 ypc), he was re-signed to a one-year deal, and rushed for 157 yards on 45 carries with a TD. He was not re-signed following the 2013 season, as the Chargers needed a more reliable back behind injury-prone Ryan Mathews, and signed with the Texans, where he played 3 games before returning to the Chargers for 7. Grade: C+

Chargers New Signings:

King Dunlap (LT) - The current starter at LT for the Chargers, he had washed out as a member of the Eagles. He has played well... when on the field. He has played in 46 games over 4 seasons (averaging about 11 games a season). His contract was worth $4.25 million, and he started 27 games those first two seasons, and this grade is based on that decision. Grade: A-

Chad Rinehart (OG) - After 4 years split between Washington and Buffalo, Rinehart signed with the Chargers on a 1 year, $1.25 million dollar deal, where he played fantastically well, showing himself as one of the best guards in the league. Grade: A+

John Phillips (TE) - Signed a 3-year deal worth around $5 million to be the blocking TE behind Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, John Phillips really didn’t show much as a receiver, catching 15 balls for 100 yards and 2 TDs in his 3 years on the Chargers. He caught 10 balls over the next two seasons with the Broncos and the Saints, ending with 72 yards and 1 TD. The Chargers didn’t miss out on much: Grade B+

Fozzy Whittaker (HB) - Originally an undrafted rookie free agent claimed by the Chargers after being released by the Cardinals, he spent all of 6 months in a Chargers uniform, before being released and signing with the Browns, then the Panthers. Over the last three years with the Panthers, he has turned into a solid 3rd down back, rushing for 518 yards and 2 TDs, and receiving for 350 yards and a TD. I think Branden Oliver is better anyways. Grade: incomplete

Derek Cox (CB) - One of the first free agent signings I was truly excited about. His introductory press conference was so funny, and he had been so good with the Jaguars. I thought he would be a good corner for the Chargers. He signed a 4 year, $20 million dollar contract with the Chargers, and was horrendous on the field. He was benched 3 times in one season and was released less than a year after he was signed. He walked out with about $10.25 million and hasn’t played a regular season snap since. This failure will always be attached to Tom Telesco’s name. Grade: F-

Danny Woodhead (HB) - Danny Woodhead signed a 2 year, $3.5 million dollar contract, and promptly led all running backs in 2013 with 605 yards and 6 TDs receiving. He added 429 yards and 2 TDs on the ground and was easily one of the best bargains of the free agency period. After missing only 3 games in the previous 4 seasons, Danny Woodhead had a season ending injury early in 2014 with a broken fibula. It was a freak injury, and his first season, he was one of the best backs in the league for only $1.75 million. Grade: A+

Rich Ohrnberger (OG) - He played well enough on a one-year, $675,000 contract. He wasn’t expensive and did his job. Grade: B+

Chris Gronkowski (FB) - Signed after a few years in the league, with the Cowboys, Colts, and Broncos. He didn’t play a game and was waived with an injury settlement after 4 months on the team. Grade: D

Jarius Wynn, Cornelius Brown, Deon Butler, Dan DePalma, and Dallas Walker were all no names, and are still pretty much no-names. Only Jarius Wynn saw significant game time, and the others were paid to do practically nothing. The only thing keeping these from being “F’s,” is that none of them were big name guys. Grades: D

Final Grade: A-

Conclusion

In Tom Telesco’s first offseason as General Manager of the Chargers, he struck gold on a few contracts, earning the nickname “Coupon God.” Outside of a huge blunder in the Derek Cox contract, this free-agency period was pretty much a slam dunk. Next, we’ll take a look at his 2014 free agency period.