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Daily Links, 1/17: LaDainian Tomlinson writes about Antonio Gates as a first-balloter

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL playoffs have just two more rounds left for this season (question: is it “halfway” through the postseason right now? Because on one hand it’s the middle of the four rounds but on the other hand we’ve cut down from 12 teams to 4 teams, so is that more like two-thirds of the way through? Just a debate I’m having with someone) and the LA Chargers are not involved this year. So be it, there’s plenty of exciting stuff that happens in the offseason otherwise the NFL wouldn’t have all that extra money that it has!

The next “key date” is the Senior Bowl, then the scouting combine in February. To catch that offseason news — even the ones we create just to keep ourselves busy — there are links. Here are said links.

LaDainian Tomlinson: Antonio Gates’ storied career merits first-ballot Hall of Fame nod - NFL

Antonio and I were teammates for seven seasons (2003-09) on the San Diego Chargers — a stretch in which our team made the postseason five times and finished as a top-five scoring offense six times. There’s no doubt in my mind that Antonio will join me in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Honestly, his eventual induction’s a foregone conclusion, so I’ll do you one better: He deserves to join me as a first-ballot inductee.

Will Disappointing Season Lead to Charger Changes? - Culver City Observer

In 2019, the Chargers ranked last in the NFL in takeaways at 14. As a comparison, the Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL in takeaways with 38. The New England Patriots were second with 36. The Chargers ranked 28th in sacks with 30. As a comparison, the Steelers led the NFL in sacks with 54.

The Chargers ranked 29th in the NFL in 3rd down defense, with opponents converting on 45.13% of third downs. As a comparison, the Patriots led the NFL in third down defense, allowing opponents to convert on only 25.6% of third downs.

12 guards the Chargers could sign in free agency - Chargers Wire

The offensive line will be a focal point for the Chargers this offseason. General manager Tom Telesco, who has a knack for addressing the group via free agency, will have plenty of options. Here is a look at 12 guards that could bring some intrigue to Los Angeles when the NFL free agent negotiating window opens on March 16, with signings allowed to start on March 18.

Biggest looming 2020 free-agent decisions for all 32 NFL teams - ESPN

The Chargers have other big-name pending unrestricted free agents such as tight end Hunter Henry and running back Melvin Gordon, but figuring out if Rivers will remain with the team is the organization’s top priority this offseason. Rivers has said he wants to play another season, and he would prefer that it be with the Chargers. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has left the door open for Rivers to return.

Top 25 NFL free agents of 2020: No shortage of intriguing QBs -

15. Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers

16. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers

Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, 28, says retiring from NFL is ‘right thing to do’ - ESPN

“I still want to play, but I don’t think it’s the right decision,’’ he continued. “I thought about it for a long time. Now is an opportunity to step away with what’s going on here.’’ Kuechly didn’t explain exactly why he can’t play fast, physical and strong at this point in his career. What is known is that from 2015 to 2017, the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year missed seven games due to concussions.

Ranking the NFL’s Top 2020 Free Agents at Every Position - Bleacher Report

In 2019, we saw the rise of Austin Ekeler. He held the lead role in the Chargers backfield during Gordon’s holdout. In three of the first four weeks, the 24-year-old eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage. After Gordon’s return, Ekeler continued to play at a high level, logging 100 receiving yards in three games and hitting the century mark on the ground in one of those outings. Because of the third-year back’s production, Gordon may be expendable. Ekeler is a restricted free agent, which likely means a manageable short-term salary.

2020 NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Who’s No. 2 after Joe Burrow? - Fox Sports

Los Angeles Chargers — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (6)

2019 season stats: 286-for-428 passing, 66.8% completion percentage, 3,471 passing yards, 32 TDs, 6 INTs

Is there a chance Herbert passes Tua? Certainly. The big mystery with Herbert involves the questions you can never fully answer: Is he an “alpha?” How much does he love football? He’s been in Eugene, Oregon his entire life. I think the West Coast makes the most sense for the 6-foot-7, 245 pound Academic All-American.

2020 NFL Mock Draft: Cardinals add WR despite Larry Fitzgerald’s return, Falcons land edge rush help - CBS Sports

Damion Square is scheduled to be a free agent. It was a position that likely needed a rejuvenation regardless for the Chargers. They have a dynamic pass rush tandem with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and the addition of Brown, who is no slouch at applying pressure either, should make life even easier for those two.

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