Inside Slant

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

It appears the Chargers will wait until the last minute in deciding their course of action with quarterback Drew Brees.
The Chargers have offered a multiyear contract to Brees but have yet to settle on common ground. If a deal can't be struck before Thursday, the Chargers could designate Brees as their franchise or transition player.

But will they?

The negotiations with Brees take on an interesting dynamic as he is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder. Brees and the Chargers' medical staff stress that Brees will be fine and the injury he suffered in the season finale won't hamper his arm strength.

But the Chargers won't know that for sure until long after the deadline to slap a tag on him has come and gone. So it might be difficult agreeing on a long-term deal with Brees in that the Chargers will need to protect themselves in case there are complications from his surgery.

They could also do that by loading up the contract with performance-based escalators. But Brees might be looking for more of a guarantee-laden pact after directing the Chargers to 21 wins the last two years, one of which ended with a Pro Bowl selection.

Or the Chargers could avoid tagging him - the cost is some $9.7 as a franchise player; about $1 million lower as a transition player - and let him test the market. They would be rolling the dice that no team would offer Brees a big-time deal considering his medical status.

And if someone did give Brees a rich proposal and the Chargers declined to get into a bidding war, many feel general manager A. J. Smith is confident Philip Rivers could move into the starting role. And if Rivers struggled, he would have a fall-back plan in No. 3 quarterback A. J. Feeley.

The Chargers' off-season plans had a monkey wrench thrown in them when Brees was hurt. But it also might give them some leverage to lowball Brees with a multiyear offer, and ending up keeping him at possibly a below market rate because of his injury.

—If Drew Brees never developed into an ace quarterback, did he have a future in tennis? Just maybe, and that assessment comes from none other than Andy Roddick, America's top player.

When both were kids in Austin, Texas, they met on the court four times. Brees, who was two years older, lost but once in a semifinal. His three victories came in tournament finals.

"'I remember the most annoying thing about Drew was that he played about twice a week," Roddick said. "I was hard-core, I was playing every weekend, playing however many days a week. I could never beat the guy."

Not so, said Brees in recalling that one defeat. But Brees said there was little doubt Roddick was soon to be a star.

"I remember he was ... younger than I was but he was very good, very fundamentally sound," said Brees, who is rehabbing his surgically repaired right shoulder after injuring it in the season finale. "You could tell he could be good at it, but he was a little guy. It was only a matter of time before he matured and became a stud.

"So I probably got him at a good time."

The two athletes' paths crossed last week at the U.S.-Romanian Davis Cup matches at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Brees came over and watched Roddick practice the day before he lost to Andrei Pavel.

Roddick - a huge University of Nebraska fan - said he had lost touch with Brees after he moved to Boca Raton, Fla. Then one day he was watching some college football and heard a familiar name.

"I kind of forgot about him for awhile; we hadn't seen each other," Roddick said. "All of a sudden I'm watching a Purdue game and there is Drew. He's throwing touchdowns instead of hitting balls by me."

From afar, Brees kept tabs on Roddick.

"I remember seeing him when he was about 17 years old and he was coming into the pros," Brees said. "I said, 'Andy Roddick, that's the same kid I used to play all the time for the championship or in the semifinals. That's cool.'

"I was anxious to see him do well and it didn't surprise me one bit. It's been kind of cool to follow him and now he is the face of tennis."

Even after being on the losing end three-of-four times when facing Brees.


—DT Jamal Williams celebrated his first Pro Bowl selection by taking Wayne Nunnely, his only NFL position coach, with him. The two share a close relationship, on and off the field.

—General manager A.J. Smith is still burning over his team failing to make the playoffs for the ninth time in the last 10 years. Especially after seeing the Steelers, a team the Chargers nearly beat during the regular season, win it all. "I'm extremely disappointed that, as talented as we are, this football team wasn't given the opportunity to get into the postseason and make a run for it."

—Backup QB Philip Rivers, the subject of countless trade rumors, isn't going anywhere. "I don't know how many times I have to say it, we aren't trading Philip Rivers," Smith stressed.

—QB Drew Brees is upbeat over the progress he is making in rehabbing his right shoulder. "I'm ahead of schedule, but I still probably won't start throwing until May," he said.

—Might Saints C LeCharles Bentley end up with the Chargers? There's little doubt the free agent is fond of offensive line coach Jack Henry, who was hired by the Chargers after working last year with Bentley in New Orleans. "Jack was a great coach obviously. Most importantly, was a better person and he was the type of coach that as a player you really wanted to play well for, because obviously the better you played, the better he looked and there was a relationship in that aspect. You never wanted to make him look bad, because he was such a great person and he really wanted you to do well. You always wanted to make him happy and make him proud."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm just trying to figure out how to get us into postseason play," - GM A. J. Smith, on his goal for the off-season.



The top decision revolves around Brees, and how the Chargers will approach their future with him. But they also have to look hard at the secondary, the lack of consistency along the offensive line and the lack of depth at wide receiver.

The Chargers also need to decide if they're bringing back inside linebacker Ben Leber, an unrestricted free agent who was a starter for 3 1/2 years before the arrival of Shawne Merriman. Leber is pretty solid, especially against the run. But the team might spend money earmarked for him elsewhere, confident Merriman can be an every down player. Surprisingly, Merriman was often off the field on passing downs in his rookie season. So the team is pretty certain Merriman is stout enough to play on the running downs, which was once Leber's forte.

1. Cornerback: The Chargers were stingy against the run but struggled defending the pass, finishing near the bottom once again. The brass once said the lack of production against the pass was because of a tepid pass rush - that's no longer the case. Despite having three first-rounders at this position - Quentin Jammer, Sammy Davis and Jamar Fletcher - the pass defense continues to be the team's Achilles' heel. Something must be fixed here to get the unit some balance.

2. Offensive line: Despite finishing in the top 10 of every critical rushing category, the Chargers thought so little of their line play that they fired offensive line coach Carl Mauck with one year left on his contract. A great fit here might be Saints center LeCharles Bentley, a free agent with ties to new line coach Jack Henry; Henry was with the Saints last year.

3. Wide receiver: Keenan McCardell isn't getting any younger and the team will likely give up on Reche Caldwell, a second-round bust. There is hope for Vincent Jackson and Eric Parker has proven he can be a reliable No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. Keep an eye on Steelers free agent Antwaan Randle El. Not only could he help in the passing game, but the Chargers are also looking for a punt returner, a role Randle El could fill. Plus, he's a familiar face to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, as Randle El was his quarterback at Indiana University when Cameron was the head coach there.




—QB Drew Brees has a Pro Bowl on his resume but is coming off surgery in his right (throwing) shoulder. That muddies the situation; both parties are working on a long-term deal.

—WR Reche Caldwell has never lived up to his second-round drafting status, instead failing to produce on a consistent basis - like many University of Florida wide outs who came before him. He's not expected back.

—CB Jamar Fletcher has turned into a decent nickel back and will return if he doesn't ask for the moon. His one interception tied him for the team lead among cornerbacks.

—G Bob Hallen isn't anything extraordinary, but he supplies veteran depth at guard and center.

—ILB Ben Leber has been a reliable player, but he has the misfortune as playing the same spot at Shawne Merriman. He likely will be set free.

—TE Justin Peelle, unlike Pro Bowler Antonio Gates, is on the team for his blocking rather than pass-catching. He does fine filling that role and is good in the clubhouse. He'll likely be back.

—DE DeQuincy Scott could return, but the emergence of rookie Luis Castillo cut significantly into his playing time. But the Chargers like his clubhouse demeanor and ability to supply a push off the edge on passing downs.


—ILB Stephen Cooper is so well though of that if Randall Godfrey had followed through on his plans to return, Cooper was being groomed for the starting job. But Godfrey is back, and it's a strong chance Cooper will be back too.

—OL Kris Dielman showed the team his skills after taking over for Toniu Fonoti early in the season. He should be back.

—OL Courtney VanBuren can't avoid knee injuries and the team's patience has likely run out with him.

—LB Matt Wilhelm is a steady special-teams player and doesn't look at of place in the rare instances he gets snaps in the base defense. A good run-stuffer with a nose for the ball; he'll be back.


—QB A. J. Feeley: contract extension; 2 yrs/$2 million.

—S Clinton Hart; RFA; 3 yrs/terms unknown

—WR Kassim Osgood: RFA; 4 yrs/terms unknown

—DE Jacques Cesaire: RFA; 5 yrs/terms unknown

—LB Carlos Polk: UFA; 1 yr/terms unknown

—FB Andrew Pinnock: RFA/5 yrs/terms unknown


—QB Drew Brees is pointing toward May to throw his first pass since having his torn labrum repaired in his right shoulder. The team is hopeful he'll be full strength by July's training camp.

—LB Donnie Edwards had arthroscopic knee surgery and will be fine for the minicamps.