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Conversations in Quarantine w/ The O.C. Register’s Gilbert Manzano

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We talk to Gilbert about the Chargers’ free agent haul, team needs, and what he’s watching on Hulu lately

Cincinnati Bengals v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

After spending the last few weeks stuck indoors due to the recent health crisis, we’ve come to realize there isn’t much else to do besides watching television, maybe getting some push-ups in, and simply conversing with those around us. The increase of leisure time has been welcomed by many and it’s been especially nice as we all get to spend a little but more time with each other on a daily basis. And while I enjoy chopping it up with all of you here at BFTB, I thought it would be a refreshing change to talk with someone else who keeps close to the Chargers for his job, as well.

I reached out to Gilbert Manzano of The O.C. Register to chat about the Chargers’ free agent acquisitions, how the signings affected his outlook on the team’s draft strategy, and what he’s been doing to kill time during this era of self-isolation.

Hope you guys enjoy and be sure to give Gilbert a follow on twitter @GManzano24.

Michael: With the initial tidal wave of free agency in the rear-view, what are your general thoughts on the Chargers’ free agent haul?

Gilbert: It was clear that the Chargers had two plans heading into free agency and both involved winning now. They missed on their first plan by going after Tom Brady, but wasted no time once Brady made his decision to go to Tampa Bay. Most teams would have paused after being spurned by their top target or rushed into making desperate lucrative signings that eventually lead to cap-space restraints in the years to come.

The Chargers quickly went to work on Plan B, but they made smart moves that filled needs at an affordable cost. The Chargers improved their overall roster by adding Bryan Bulaga, Chris Harris Jr. and Linval Joseph, but they’re still missing their star quarterback. But it bodes well that the Chargers planned for the outcome of Brady saying no, and it seems they have no intentions of going through a rebuild 2020 season.

They need to sell tickets for their first season at SoFi Stadium, and the way to do that is by winning. The games haven’t been played, but the Chargers at least came out of the free-agency frenzy as winners with a solid roster on paper.

M: The Chargers signed a player of need at four different positions. What position is still the biggest priority? Do you think that need will be filled by a free agent or a draft pick?

G: It’s strange to say the Chargers have a strong roster — they’re stacked on defense and with skill players — because they have openings at arguably the two most important positions in football with quarterback and left tackle. The team at least has options at quarterback with the reliable Tyrod Taylor and possibly drafting one with their No. 6 overall pick in the draft. But if they draft a quarterback, how will they address the left tackle position? That to me is the biggest mystery and need. Yes, the team was pleased with Trey Pipkins’ progress during his rookie season, but is he ready to start in his second season? It would make sense to at least add a veteran left tackle to compete with Pipkins.

Jason Peters, 38, and Cordy Glenn, 30, are still available, but they’re coming off injury-riddled seasons. The Chargers might be considering them, but they currently can’t have free agents at the facility for workouts and physical because of the coronavirus precautions. It would be risky to sign Peters or Glenn without checking them out. Of course, the big fish at left tackle is to trade for Trent Williams, but I don’t see that happening because of cap space and compensation reasons.

The Chargers obviously could draft an offensive tackle, but it would probably be better in the long run for Pipkins to learn from a vereran. They spent a third-round pick on him last year. Might as well groom him for the future.

M: How have the free agent signings changed the way you view the Chargers’ draft? From before free agency to now, how much have your predictions for the Chargers’ draft changed?

G: I believe they’re aiming to draft a quarterback, which would explain why they haven’t gone after Cam Newton or Jameis Winston. But it was probably always their plan to draft a quarterback even if they landed Brady. The 42-year-old quarterback can’t play forever. Having Taylor on the roster helps the Chargers stay away from the quarterback free-agent market. Chargers fans can pound the table for Newton, but I don’t see them signing a veteran quarterback unless they strike out in the draft.

But quarterback isn’t the only position they need to address in the draft. They’re still missing a third wideout and it was smart of them not to sign one because this draft class is loaded with wideouts. Expect the Chargers to make this a priority after the first round. They’re also missing an athletic linebacker, a short-yardage running back, and of course, offensive linemen.

M: Fans are going to be going back and forth on whether or not the Chargers NEED to draft a quarterback at #6. What is your personal opinion on the matter and who do YOU think the Bolts will select at #6?

G: First of all, how strange is it that there’s a former league MVP (Newton) and the reigning passing yards leader (Winston) available? Most years there’s slim pickings at quarterback, although the Chargers rarely had to worry about this position with Philip Rivers starting every game the past 14 seasons. The Chargers have options at quarterback, but so far they’re resisting to sign one. That should tell you they’re high on this QB draft class. They see their quarterback of the future out there, but is it just one quarterback they’re fans of? They probably like more than one quarterback because they have to assume the Miami Dolphins will eventually trade up to get their guy. Miami has plenty of ammunition to do it with an abundance of draft picks. The Chargers don’t have that luxury. Perhaps they’re content with taking either Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert and hope that Miami takes the wrong one. Or that list expands to three (Jordan Love) or four (Jalen Hurts) quarterbacks.

But if the Chargers’ wish list is small at quarterback, and if that list is crossed off completely by the time they’re on the clock at No. 6, where do they go? To me, it would have to be one of the top available offensive tackles or Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons. A defensive pairing of star safety Derwin James and Simmons might be too enticing to pass up. But the biggest draft need has to be quarterback. The Chargers need their quarterback of the future, and if I had to guess, I think they’ll take Herbert at No. 6. Although, Tagovailoa would be my top choice.

M: Are there any other free agents that are still available that you think the Chargers should consider signing? If so, who are they and why?

G: Like I mentioned before, Peters would be a solid addition for the Chargers. He’s a future Hall of Famer who was beloved by his teammates in Philadelphia. The Chargers are missing leadership after separating from Russell Okung, Thomas Davis, Brandon Mebane and Rivers.

But Peters is 38 with injury concerns, so it would be a risky move. But he’ll definitely help in the locker room and with the developing Pipkins.

M: Which new Charger do you think will have the greatest impact in 2020?

G: This is a tough one because I like both Trai Turner and Bulaga, but because I’m split on the offensive linemen, I’ll go with the surprise addition of Harris. The secondary wasn’t a top need, but when you’re playing Patrick Mahomes twice a year, the more corners, the better. The Chargers are now stacked in the defensive backfield and have players who can play multiple positions. If Harris plays as the slot cornerback, that allows Desmond King to go after the quarterback. He’s an underrated playmaker at the line of scrimmage. But Harris is also a quality outside corner, and if King finds his 2018 All-Pro form, the Chargers can form arguably the best secondary in the NFL and return to their Jack Boyz ways, which is creating turnovers, something they lacked in 2019.

M: We’ve all been stuck inside for what seems like months already, what are you doing to pass the time?

G: It’s been almost a week since I finished Tiger King and I’m still stunned by all the chaos that unfolded throughout the Netflix documentary. But like many people, I’ve been binging a lot of TV shows. Just started Parks and Rec and finished the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Also, I highly recommend Dave, the show with rapper Lil Dicky. Other than that and eating tons of fast food and going on very slow jogs, the Chargers have been keeping me busy.